By CARL GREEN
Belleville – Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner was intending to support his pro-business, anti-union message in the Metro-East last week, but instead got a look at how determined workers here are to protect the middle class.
Of about 150 people who turned up at Eckert’s Orchard, just south of Belleville, well over half of them were union members, easily outnumbering Rauner’s supporters.
And when Rauner started talking about his anti-worker plans, the crowd took oer, even shouting him down with chants of “Go home!”
Members of IBEW Local 3309 and Steamfitters Local 439 were prominent with signs, but several other locals, mostly in the building trades, were also present. The Southwestern Illinois Building and Construction Trades Council had alerted its membership about the event.
“All the trades – I mean everybody – was there. The Electricians, the Steamfitters, the Laborers, the Plumbers, Painters and Carpenters, they were all there, said Don DeGonia, business manager for Plumbers and Gasfitters Local 360.
“They were yelling at him the whole time,” DeGonia added. “He got there about 3 p.m., and he only spoke for about 10 minutes. You could see the frustration in his face.”
The workers were focused on Rauner’s attempts to slip right-to-work into Illinois using local governments instead of the Legislature, an effort that has largely been rejected by cities and counties in the state.
‘READ THE WHOLE THING’
The focus has since shifted somewhat to Rauner’s proposal for a property tax freeze
Dale Stewart, executive financial secretary for the Trades Council, on Thursday thanked all the union members who came out to the Rauner event.
But Stewart warned the Council that the property tax freeze proposal is not what it appears to be.
“He keeps talking about property tax, and a lot of people say that’s good, you know, we’re going to decrease the property tax.
“But what’s in his proposal for property tax is to eliminate collective bargaining for the communities and also the prevailing wage. That’s his bill. That’s what he wants,” Stewart said.
In other words, the Governor tried being up front and honest about his anti-worker agenda and failed. Now, he’s trying to pull a fast one.
“When he says, ‘I just want to freeze the property tax,’ and everybody likes that, they need to read the whole thing. The whole thing is he wants to do away with our prevailing wage,” Stewart said.
FORCING A STRIKE?
Stewart predicted that Rauner will try to shut down state government after the new fiscal year begins on July 1, probably without a budget agreement.
“I think what he’ll probably do is force the public sector unions to strike,” Stewart said. “We’ll see what happens after that. It’s going to be a tough one for a lot of people living paycheck to paycheck.”
Trades Council members will meet with a group of state legislators organized by Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Swansea) on June 22 to assess the situation.
Charles “Totsie” Bailey, president of the Trades Council, said the Metro East legislators’ support of working people in opposition to Rauner has been strong and steady and will remain vital.
“We’ve got to support them big time,” he said. “These state reps and senators are our lifeblood.”