East Alton – This has been a worrisome campaign season for the labor movement in Illinois, with corporate Republicans pouring in millions of dollars to win the governorship and build strength in Congress and the state legislature.
Unions and Democrats have responded with a grim determination to out-organize and out-work their opponents, even if they can’t outspend them.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka was in the Metro East at Machinists Lodge 660 Sept. 13 to campaign for U.S. Rep. Bill Enyart (D-Belleville) in the state’s 12th Congressional District.
As Trumka and Enyart, along with Illinois AFL-CIO President Michael Carrigan, prepared for an afternoon rally at the Machinists Local 660 hall in East Alton, word came that the Chicago Tribune had a new poll showing Gov. Pat Quinn with an 11-percentage-point lead over his billionaire Republican challenger Bruce Rauner, reversing a previous polling deficit.
Quinn’s re-election is seen as crucial to keeping private-sector union members working and maintaining organizing rights for public-sector unions. In other words, the future of unions in Illinois.
So the rally’s message remained the same – that the union vote must turn out on Nov. 4.
SET THE EXAMPLE
“We need you to work every single day,” Trumka said. “We need you to be the first ones at the phone banks, the first ones on the walks, the first ones at leafleting. When our members see us out there working, they understand it’s important.”
Trumka said he also would be working AFL-CIO phone banks and campaigning door to door.
“You can’t be a leader who sits behind a desk somewhere and asks other people to go out on their time off when you’re not willing to do it yourself,” he said
Carrigan said the Illinois AFL-CIO had already made over 600,000 calls and talked to over 30,000 union members.
“We’re starting to move those margins and starting to talk to the general public,” he said.
Before the rally, teams of union supporters worked door-to-door in nearby East Alton and Wood River neighborhoods, receiving solid support from the residents they found at home.
At the rally, Enyart emphasized his family’s union background. His father was a longtime UAW member and he, too, briefly worked in a Caterpillar assembly plant as a member of the UAW.
“I come from a union family, and I wouldn’t be standing before you today if hadn’t been for two things _ a union paycheck and the GI bill,” Enyart said.
Trumka gave Enyart a strong vote of confidence.
“Every time it came to standing up for us, for speaking up for working people, that man stood with you,” Trumka said of Enyart’s first term in Washington.
“You have a choice between someone who is of us, by us and for us, and someone who wants to destroy us and everything that we stand for,” Trumka said.
RAUNER ‘NOT OUR FRIEND’
“I can’t say enough bad about this guy,” Carrigan said. ”This is corporate greed, this is corporate America, this is the right wing, who want to take the middle class and want to take organized labor and beat you down as far as possible.
“This is a guy who says we should eliminate the minimum wage. This is a guy who says we ought to cut it. This is not our friend, and more people are finding out.”
Early voting in Illinois begins Oct. 20.
“There’s no excuse why you can’t get to the polls,” Carrigan said.