‘Labor must get involved – to save itself’
By CARL GREEN
The 2016 election is more than 10 months away, but Totsie Bailey is working hard right now to rev up labor’s role in electing candidates to support working families and protect union rights.
Bailey, business manager for Steamfitters Local 439, held a well-attended political rally on Jan. 13 to announce the UA’s formal endorsement of Congressional candidate C.J. Baricevic, who is seeking the Democratic nomination in the 12th Congressional District. The AFL-CIO is also endorsing Baricevic.
The Steamfitters’ hall north of Fairview Heights was filled with more than 200 union leaders and elected officials who support unions. Bailey served up some combustible chili and an equally fiery speech, saying unions risk their very existence if they don’t get more active in the political process.
“We have to get out there,” he said. “We have to motivate our people. We’ve got to educate them. We’ve got to get them fired up! We’ve got to get them mad! Because this is your livelihood, brothers.”
His case in point was the 2014 election, when many union voters stayed home and Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner was elected by a narrow margin.
“And now, Rauner is doing everything he can to destroy labor,” Bailey said. “If you see what’s happening across this country, it’s the same thing. It’s Republicans –Republican governors, Republican House, Republican Senate. They are totally against organized labor – and that’s us! They are trying to destroy us. We can’t let that happen.”
Rauner is not on the ballot in the coming election, but Bailey warned that Rauner will use his millions to erode the Democratic majorities in the Illinois House and Senate, which have been the bulwark keeping Rauner’s anti-union proposals in check.
“If it were not for our House and our Senate, we would be a right-to-work state right now,” he said.
Bailey wasn’t the only speaker, though. Baricevic gave a strong appeal of his own for unions to get more involved.
“There is a fundamental belief in the Republican Party that if they beat down unions – if they break the backs of working people – they will not lose another election,” he said.
“I’ve heard them tell me this. They don’t care about your gun rights. They don’t care about social issues. They want to make as much money as they possibly can. So we’ve found ourselves in a position where we have to take a stand for what is right and against what is not.”
POWER OF VOTING
To show the power of the vote, Baricevic noted that it was an elected circuit judge in St. Clair County who struck down Rauner’s attempts to enforce anti-union budgetary measures.
“Right now, the letter of the law is that Bruce Rauner lost the lawsuit because he doesn’t care about unions, and he wanted to use your wages and your work as a political tool,” the candidate said. “That’s not Bruce Rauner trying to be a tactician, or a great politician, that’s Bruce Rauner trying to break the backs of working people. That’s an example of what will happen if we continue to elect those folks.”
Baricevic challenging Rep. Mike Bost, the Republican state representative who ousted Democrat Bill Enyart two years ago from the Congressional seat held for decades by former Rep. Jerry Costello.
State Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Swansea), who introduced Baricevic, noted that the Congressional seat was held previously by another strong union supporter, Mel Price, meaning Bost broke up a long, strong line.
“Since the second world war, we’ve had this district, and people represented working families, and now we’ve got this character,” he said. “We can’t stand for this. We need a new generation of leadership, and that’s going to be C.J. Baricevic. We need someone who grew up in the labor movement. That’s C.J. Baricevic.”
Hoffman recalled serving with Bost in the Legislature. “When he was a state representative, he had a 32 percent voting record with organized labor. What does that mean? It means that in every 10 votes, he voted wrong seven times. He voted to take money out of your pocketbook. He voted against safety in the workplace. He voted against prevailing wage, he voted against collective bargaining.”
BUSTING UP LABOR
State Sen. Bill Haine (D-Alton) added to the forceful statements, saying he is “truly troubled” by Rauner’s disregard for the people of Illinois.
“This election is about the future of the state and its ability to provide for the poor, the middle class and everyone else,” Haine said. “A year ago, we were paying our bills. We were paying the hospitals and the nursing homes and the Alzheimer’s centers and the autism centers. We were paying them all.”
Rauner had promised during the campaign to lower the state’s income tax surcharge by increments and not all at once, Haine said. “Instead, he used that to bludgeon the people of Illinois, saying we must vote for his agenda.
“What was his agenda? To bust up labor. No PLAs, no prevailing wage, no collective bargaining. Return us to 1932 – that’s what it is, let’s be frank about it.
“Rauner bought the primary with millions, he bought the Republican Party with millions, he bought the governorship with $28 million, an extraordinary, unprecedented number. He wants to buy, and what he can’t buy he wants to destroy. So the campaign of the Democratic Party is simple – we can’t be bought!”