Pritzker praises Labor unions at Southwestern Illinois Central Labor Council awards dinner


ILLINOIS GOV. JB PRITZKER touted his support for Labor unions and particularly educators at the Southwestern Illinois Central Labor Council’s 55th Annual Labor Awards dinner Aug. 31 in Belleville, IL. – State Journal-Register photo

Belleville, IL — Gov. JB Pritzker delivered a rousing speech in support of Labor unions Aug. 31 during a quickly planned visit to the Southwestern Illinois Central Labor Council’s 55th Annual Labor Awards Dinner at Belleville.

Pritzker said he decided late in the week to attend the dinner to fulfill a promise to its organizers to meet and greet many of his union supporters in the Metro East area.

Pritzker specifically lauded hard-working union teachers as part of the backbone of building an increasingly strong and well-educated economic engine in Illinois. He said he was proud that both the Labor Council’s Labor Man of the Year and Labor Woman of the Year — Terry W. Turley and Karen Hand — are career educators.

“They are among my heroes,” he said. “And I want to assure them and the rest of you educators here that we are fully funding your pensions.”

Both Turley and Hand thanked Pritzker for his unwavering support of schools and teachers in brief remarks upon accepting their awards.

More than 200 people attended the annual dinner at Bel-Air Bowl banquet center.

Pritzker drew loud cheers and applause when he said, “We’ve made Illinois the most pro-worker state in the nation. Other states know it’s true, and they’re jealous.”

Pritzker cited the state’s recent Worker’s Right Amendment to its constitution, which protects all workers’ rights to organize and bargain collectively. The amendment is the only one of its kind in the nation.

He also noted that Illinois is now paying prevailing wages on “every single state project that is under way.”

Pritzker also said he was amused that frustrated drivers sometimes complain about all the orange construction cones that can slow traffic on the state’s road and bridge projects. “I want to say sorry, (but) not sorry,” he said.

The more orange cones there are, the more that prevailing wage work is getting done, he said.

“We’re doing all the right things here,” Pritzker said. “So many people are working for good salaries.

“Things are moving in the right direction, and it shows,” he added. “Keep the faith! The best is yet to come!”

Labor Council President Scot Luchtefeld praised Pritzker’s achievements as a progressive Democratic governor.

“He’s the best damned governor this state’s ever seen!” Luchtefeld shouted from the podium. “He was dealt the worst possible hand you could ever get, and he’s turned things completely around.”

Luchtefeld noted that Pritzker had managed to balance the state’s budgets and make it a worker-friendly state after defeating conservative Republican incumbent and union hater Bruce Rauner to win the governor’s office in 2018. Budget gridlock and a lack of balanced budgets marked all four years of Rauner’s only term.

The council’s Labor Man of the Year, Terry Turley, is president of the East St. Louis Federation of Teachers, IFT Local 1220. He taught science for 26 years at East St. Louis High School and has been its Science Teacher of the Year. He also has been a field service director for the Illinois Federation of Teachers.

Turley started his working career as a supermarket checker in his native town of Jackson, Tenn.

There, he became an active member of the retail clerks union. In addition, he has been a vice president of the Illinois Federation of Teachers.

The council’s Labor Woman of the year, Karen Hand, has worked all 34 years of her career in education for the High Mount School District at Swansea. She has remained active in the teacher’s union there, serving in several positions including union president.

Hand has taught math, gifted students, English language arts, and served as a reading specialist. In addition, she has coached basketball, softball, track, volleyball, cheerleading, and dance. Since her recent retirement, she has worked as a substitute teacher full-time because of a teacher shortage in the district.

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