Illinois AFL-CIO issues statement thanking Madigan for ‘legacy of accomplishments for working families’
By CARL GREEN
Springfield, IL – Just weeks after losing his position as Speaker of the Illinois House of Representatives Michael J. Madigan, long a friend to working people and their families, announced he is leaving the House altogether, ending 50 years of service.
“I leave office at peace with my decision and proud of the many contributions I’ve made to the state of Illinois, and I do so knowing I’ve made a difference,” Madigan, 78, said in his retirement statement. His term in the House was to run through January 2023.
Illinois AFL-CIO President Tim Drea and Secretary-Treasurer Pat Devaney issued a joint statement thanking Madigan, a strong ally of the Labor Movement, for his indelible impact on Illinois public policy and politics, and his historic legacy of accomplishments for working families.
PUT WORKERS’ INTERESTS FIRST
“For the past 50 years, Speaker Madigan has had unprecedented influence on our legislative process. Time after time, he has put the interests of working men and women first, even under dire circumstances and serious threats,” the statement read, in part.
“When Illinois needed revenue to support the vital public services and programs we all depend on, Speaker Madigan put together the right recipe to get the job done,” the statement continued. “When Illinois desperately needed capital construction programs to create and support thousands of good-paying jobs, Speaker Madigan led the way.
“When [former governor] Bruce Rauner and other radical politicians threatened working families, Speaker Madigan stood firm. And when legislators needed his help to advance the agenda that supports working men and women, time and time again Speaker Madigan was there for them.
“Speaker Madigan strengthened and protected the prevailing wage to build our communities, stabilized our workers’ compensation system costs while protecting injured workers, fought for our collective bargaining rights, stopped senseless so-called ‘right-to-work’ crusades and expanded voter access for working families.”
STILL A POLITICAL POWER
Madigan, of Chicago, will remain a political power in Illinois as chairman of the Illinois Democratic Party and in control of the Friends of Michael J. Madigan political fund, which has $13.5 million. Madigan was first elected Speaker of the House in 1983.
The new speaker, Emanuel “Chris” Welch, said Madigan made great contributions.
“Under him, we’ve had strong, sustained Democratic leadership in Springfield,” Welch said. “We legalized same-sex marriage, abolished the death penalty and solidified abortion rights. Illinois also became the first state in the Midwest to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour. These laws gave underserved populations a new sense of hope. I think his legacy is going to be pretty clear – that it’s because of Mike Madigan that we had strong, sustained Democratic leadership here in Illinois.”
Madigan said he has no regrets.
“Fifty years ago, I decided to dedicate my life to public service,” he said. “Simply put, I knew I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives. I believed then and still do today that it is our duty as public servants to improve the lives of the most vulnerable and help hardworking people build a good life.”
Madigan’s position was damaged last July when Commonwealth Edison admitted its executives had bribed associates of Madigan to win favorable legislation. Madigan said he had done no wrong, but lost support within the party and lost his bid for re-election as speaker.
“It’s no secret that I have been the target of vicious attacks by people who sought to diminish my many achievements lifting up the working people of Illinois. The fact is, my motivation for holding elected office has never wavered. I have been resolute in my dedication to public service and integrity, always acting in the interest of the people of Illinois.”
STRONG IMPACT IN
John Shaw, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, noted that Madigan had a strong impact in downstate Illinois as well as the Chicago area.
“He understood that for Democrats to be a vibrant force in Springfield, they needed to have some power outside of Chicago,” Shaw said. “So I do think that he worked to advance the statewide agenda, and not just the Chicago exclusive agenda.”