By CARL GREEN
Collinsville IL – Battered throughout most of Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner’s first term with attacks on unions and their members, the Illinois AFL-CIO is asking legislative candidates to pledge they will support working people.
At a special ceremony Sept. 4 at IBEW Local 309 hall, five Democratic candidates for the state House and Senate from the Metro-East stepped up to sign “The Contract with the Middle Class.” No Republicans followed suit.
Michael Carrigan, president of the Illinois AFL-CIO, reminded union representatives attending the event that early voting starts in just a few days, on Sept. 27.
“We don’t talk in terms of voting just on Nov. 6 — that’s just the last day you can vote,” he said, reminding union members that even if they’ll be out of town on Election Day, their votes still matter.
Since taking office, Carrigan said, Gov. Rauner has waged an all-out assault on unions and their members, starting with the economic plan Rauner called his “Turnaround Agenda.”
“It was just page after page of attacks on the middle-class, particularly if you had a union card in your pocket,” Carrigan said. “It’s been a full-fledged attack on unions. It’s all been about pushing down wages, pushing down benefits, destroying collective bargaining rights and going after state workers.”
Carrigan had already visited Peoria and the Quad-Cities last week to give candidates a chance to sign the pledge and was traveling to Chicago, Ottawa, Marion and other locations for similar ceremonies.
The most recent examples of Rauner’s antipathy toward unions can be seen in the prevailing wage levels set throughout the state for workers on public projects, Carrigan said.
“Craft by craft, county by county, it hasn’t been right,” he said. “We had to go to court and get it straightened out last year. Well, guess what? This year, they posted them again and they’re wrong. There are omissions and there are tremendous errors.
“A lot of the unions have already filed to have hearings at the Department of Labor. It’s just going to be a battle until Rauner leaves office next January,” Carrigan said, anticipating an Election Night victory for Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker.
“Whatever direction you turn on the compass,” Carrigan said of Rauner, “this guy has fought Organized Labor. He talks about how he’s the governor for the middle-class, but nothing could be further from the truth. This guy is just an enemy of the middle-class.”
The Contract with the Middle Class calls on candidates to oppose Rauner’s:
• Special interest agenda and phony reforms that strip workers of their rights
• Support efforts to create jobs
• Defend collective bargaining
• Ensure equal pay for women, affordable health care and retirement benefits.
“It is about investing in American jobs by prioritizing the state to buy American made products and services,” Carrigan said.
“It’s about fighting for access to affordable health care for taking care of people with pre-existing conditions,” he said.
“It’s about opposing efforts to force hard-working families into non-guaranteed retirement plans and about working to strengthen worker protections like compensation and access to medical care for injured workers.”
SENATE CANDIDATES WHO SIGNED THE PLEDGE
Two of the candidates who signed the pledge are seeking to replace retiring state senators:
• Christopher Belt, of Centreville, is seeking to replace Democratic State Senator James Clayborne in the 57th District. Clayborne currently serves as Senate majority leader and is not seeking re-election.
Belt, a probation administrator for St. Clair County, described how union jobs supported his own large family as he was growing up.
“It’s very important that we keep those avenues open for lower-income families to come up to the middle class,” he said. “One of the primary ways we can do that is through unions.
“Anything that says ‘right-to-work,’ I’m against,” Belt said. “I’m pro-union, 100 percent, and we have to continue to fight. We’ve got to bring this thing home. I like the enthusiasm we’ve displayed thus far, but we can’t just sit back.”
• Rachelle Aud Crowe, of Glen Carbon, is seeking to replace longtime Democratic State Senator Bill Haine.
Crowe, a Madison County prosecutor, said her opponent, the mayor of Edwardsville, tried to push through Rauner’s local “right-to-work” scheme but was foiled when dozens of union supporters showed up to oppose it.
“I’m proud to be signing this contract, I’m proud to be a union supporter, and I have an opponent who does not share our values,” Crowe said. “It was his goal to repeal the prevailing wage law, to decrease wages and to slash workers compensation. He was not successful, but only because you all stepped up.”
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State House candidates who signed the pledge included:
• Monica Bristow of Godfrey – 111th District.
• LaToya Greenwood of East St. Louis – 114th District.
• Katie Stuart of Edwardsville – 112th District.
Jay Hoffman of Swansea, 113th District, couldn’t be there but pledged by phone to sign on as soon as possible.
Contract with the Middle Class
This is the text of the Illinois AFL-CIO’s “Contract with the Middle Class”:
As a candidate for elected office in Illinois, I pledge to make a middle-class agenda a priority ahead of Bruce Rauner’s special interest agenda. While Rauner thinks the only way to create jobs is by cutting middle-class wages and stripping away the rights of workers, I will reject his phony reforms. Instead, I will fight for real reforms that grow our economy by lifting up Illinois’ middle class by:
• Supporting fair wages and protecting workers’ collective bargaining rights in the wake of the Supreme Court’s wrongly decided Janus case.
• Rejecting Governor Rauner’s veto of equal pay for women and fighting for stronger protections that guarantee equal pay for equal work.
• Investing in American jobs by prioritizing the state to buy American-made products and services.
• Fighting for access to affordable health care, protecting care for people with pre-existing conditions and stopping big insurance companies from raising premiums through the roof.
• Opposing Governor Rauner’s and extreme special interest groups’ efforts to force hard-working families into non-guaranteed retirement plans.
• Working to strengthen worker protections such as compensation and access to medical care for injured workers.
• Opposing the Rauner corporate agenda of destroying unions, dismantling worker protections and slashing wages.