By CARL GREEN
Collinsville, IL – The new Democratic nominee for governor, J.B. Pritzker, and one of his top supporters, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, brought strong pro-Labor messages in a campaign visit here last month.
After rallying with canvass volunteers in Belleville, the tour stopped for lunch with union members and local Democrats at the Doubletree Inn.
Pritzker said Governor Bruce Rainer should be working to improve life for working families instead of making it harder.
“We need a governor who wakes up every day thinking about how to make the lives of working families in Illinois better,” he said. “You don’t get that when you have a governor who thinks, ‘How do I destroy labor unions, how do I lower wages, how do I lower workplace safety?’
“He thinks that’s how you create jobs, but that’s not how you create jobs. If that’s the case, why is California doing so much better than we are at job creation? Why is Minnesota doing better? Why is New York?”
BANISH THE WORDS ‘RIGHT-TO-WORK’
Pritzker said his goals as governor would be higher wages, protecting bargaining rights and maintaining the prevailing wage, while also making college more affordable.
“There is no chance I am going to let this state fall prey to the Koch Brothers’ right-wing network,” he said. “We are going to banish the words ‘right-to-work’ from Illinois.”
At this, Pritzker was roundly cheered.
Durbin honored the tables of union leaders and members at the luncheon.
“We couldn’t be here without our friends in Organized Labor,” he said. “You folks have stood behind us when others wouldn’t. You’ve produced the workers when others spent a lot more money to try to beat us, and we have tried to repay that by standing up for the values that are at the core of your lives – making sure you can join a labor union and collectively bargain for decent wages and good benefits, and making sure your sons and daughters have that same opportunity in the future.”
RAUNER: UNIONS HAVE TO GO
Durbin called Rauner “the number one enemy of Organized Labor in the United States of America.”
He recalled a dinner between himself and Rauner and their wives after Rauner was elected – “way back when he was still talking to me,” he joked. Durbin offered to try to help in Rauner’s fast-growing battles with Labor.
“Rauner said, ‘You don’t get it, Durbin. It’s not about working with them. They’ve got to go away.’ And that’s what he believes, in his heart of hearts,” Durbin said.
So it was no surprise when Rauner brought the infamous Janus case before the Republican-packed Supreme Court that is expected to roll back the rights of public employee unions.
“This is a Bruce Rauner case,” Durbin said. “It goes right to the heart of unions and Organized Labor and what means so much to all of us in this room. I come from one of those Labor families, born and raised in East St. Louis and damn proud of it. That’s how I grew up, and I thought everybody else did too.”
A STATEWIDE CANDIDACY
It’s no coincidence that Pritzker and Stratton have been making downstate appearances.
“We are running a statewide candidacy,” he said. “This is a campaign that’s not just about Chicago and the collar counties. We began this campaign by spending time in southern and central Illinois. The challenges we face as a state begin right here. Too many politicians don’t listen to people outside of wherever it is they come from.
“I really wanted to hear all of you, and to hear what it is you’re going through and what your families are challenged with like so many families –that there’s been no job creation across the state of Illinois,” Pritzker said. “There are families – and particularly those with young children – who can’t get a quality education in their forgotten communities across central and southern Illinois. Health care is now less available because of Bruce Rauner.
“We are running a campaign that’s about the kitchen table issues that are important to people all across the state,” he said.