In Public Addresses, Governor Continues to Outline Race-to-the-Bottom Tactics

In the first major speech of his administration, newly elected Gov. Bruce Rauner used his State of the State address on February 4 to set forth an agenda of weakening Illinois’ middle class and dismantling labor unions.

On February 25, the governor further attacked union members in a speech before the Illinois Farm Bureau, calling for “right-to-work zones” to be established in cities and counties statewide. Two days later, he repeated his proposals at the Union League Club in downtown Chicago.

These public addresses are a continuation of Gov. Rauner’s rhetoric from the campaign trail, primarily consisting of recommendations that would strip workers of much-needed workplace safeguards, wages and benefits in the name of balancing Illinois’ budget.

“Gov. Rauner has already had many opportunities to specifically address the needs of our state and instead chooses to assault hardworking union members as he did throughout all of last year,” said John T. Coli, President of Teamsters Joint Council 25. “The governor says he wants to create good jobs and lift up the middle class, but when you go down the line of his proposals, each of them is aimed at driving down wages and benefits for all workers in Illinois, not just union members.”

Among the anti-worker proposals he has put forth in recent weeks, Rauner has vowed to:

  • Create “employee empowerment zones” to allow governments within Illinois to enact localized right-to-work legislation
  • Weaken the state’s prevailing wage laws and reduce wages earned by workers on public works projects
  • Weaken or altogether eliminate project labor agreements, which currently ensure prevailing wage rates are paid to all workers on state construction sites
  • Prohibit unions from making political contributions to labor-friendly candidates
  • Create merit-pay for state employees and eliminate seniority benefits
  • Adopt “reforms” to the state’s unemployment insurance and worker’s compensation systems, reducing a vital safety net for Illinois workers

“These proposals are no different than the race-to-the-bottom tactics we saw under former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker,” Coli said. “Working men and women in this state have fought far too long to simply hand over our rights to a corporate billionaire who can’t possibly understand the issues, pressures and realities facing our members each and every day. More than 100,000 Teamsters across Illinois will stand together to challenge Gov. Rauner’s anti-worker agenda.”

With 26 affiliated local unions, Teamsters Joint Council 25 is America’s premier labor union for Chicago, Illinois and northwest Indiana.