St. Clair Democrats, Chicago unions endorse Pritzker to take on Rauner

J.B. Pritzker, a Democratic candidate for Illinois governor, recently accepted endorsements from 13 labor unions at Operating Engineers Local 399. – Chicago Tribune photo


Illinois Correspondent

Belleville, IL – A series of endorsements by labor unions and labor supporters have given the wealthiest Democratic candidate for Illinois governor an advantage 10 months before the primary election on March 20, 2018.

The St. Clair County Democratic Central Committee last week joined several Chicago-area unions in declaring for J.B. Pritzker, the Democrats’ own billionaire, who has been valued at $3.4 billion by Forbes Magazine.

St. Clair Democratic Chairman Bob Sprague told the Belleville News-Democrat that Pritzker made a good impression on the group.

“We met with J.B. and discussed his vision for Illinois,” Sprague said. “He’s the right candidate to take on Bruce Rauner to create jobs, protect workers’ rights and fix the budget mess. We will support J.B. every step of the way in order to take back our state.”


Unions that have endorsed Pritzker included:

  • Operating Engineers Local 399.
  • UFCW Local 881.
  • Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters.
  • Laborers’ District Council of Chicago.
  • Boilermakers Local 1.
  • Bricklayers District Council.
  • Elevator Constructors Local 2.
  • Heat and Frost Insulators Local 17.
  • Ironworkers District Council of Chicago and Vicinity.
  • Plasterers and Cement Masons Local 502.
  • UA Plumbers Local 130.
  • Roofers and Waterproofers Local 11.
  • Sheet Metal Workers Local 73.


Another early development in the crowded primary favored Chris Kennedy, a Chicago businessman and youngest son of Robert F. Kennedy.

Chicago City Treasurer Kurt Summers, who was considering running, commissioned a poll of 500 likely Democratic primary voters for their preference between Pritzker, Kennedy and Summers.

Of them, 44 percent chose Kennedy, 11 percent Pritzker and seven percent Summers, leaving a large share undecided. So Summers decided not to run – and then he endorsed Pritzker.

He gave this explanation to the Chicago Sun-Times: “I met with every candidate and asked them what their commitment was to those who are most in need. That’s who we’re supposed to work for in government, that’s who we serve,” he said.

“J.B. had the combination of the best vision and the greatest capability to deliver. J.B. understands that the best way to lift up our communities is to invest in them, provide job creation and real opportunity,” Summers added.

Pritzker’s wealth and Kennedy’s name have dominated the early politics, although several others are in the race and are working to build support:

  • Madison County Regional School Superintendent Bob Daiber has been meeting people and making appearances downstate and in Chicago.
  • State Senator Daniel Biss, of Evanston, has taken a high-profile role in Springfield legislative matters.
  • Chicago Alderman Ameya Pawar has been issuing position statements and is planning an online town meeting June 15.
  • Skokie native Alex Paterakis, an engineer and business owner, has continued his campaign after being the first to file.


Pritzker has been meeting with union groups. On his visit to Belleville, he met with retired steelworkers and members of Laborers Local 100. He is a Hyatt hotels heir who headed the Illinois Human Rights Commission and advocated for early childhood education. His sister, Penny Pritzker, was Commerce Secretary for President Obama.

At a meeting with Operating Engineers Local 399, Pritzker set Governor Bruce Rauner as his target, as reported by the Chicago Tribune:

“This is a fight for your survival. His stated goal is to destroy the unions,” Pritzker said of Rauner. “He wants you to work for less. He wants you to get lower compensation for workplace injuries. He wants you to give up your collective bargaining rights with your employers.

“Ladies and gentlemen, labor unions in Illinois won’t survive a second term by Bruce Rauner. It’s time for a governor who doesn’t drop his g’s, who doesn’t pretend to wear a Timex watch when actually he’s got a drawer full of Rolex watches, who doesn’t have a hidden agenda underneath his Carhartt jacket.”

Kennedy, former manager of Merchandise Mart in Chicago, announced he had raised $1 million in contributions. In a speech at the Will and Grundy Counties Trade and Labor Council Dinner, Kennedy said that two years into his term, Rauner has no intention of agreeing to a state budget.

“This is not a stalemate, this is a hostage taking,” Kennedy said. “This governor isn’t interested in negotiating a budget. If he wanted to negotiate a budget he could get it done within a week and there would be Democratic and Republican support. He’s holding that budget hostage for his turnaround agenda.”


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