Ill. Candidate Channels Reagan’s Union Busting
August 26, 2014
When President Ronald Reagan fired more than 11,000 striking air traffic controllers this month in 1981, it cast a chilling effect on the movement that reverberated years down the line.
It also won approval from Bruce Rauner, an Illinois multimillionaire who is currently running a largely self-funded campaign to be the next governor in a state with union density of more than 16 percent – higher than the national average.
A recent pair of videos obtained by the Illinois Federation of Teachers shows the GOP candidate telling supportive crowds that if elected, he wouldn’t hesitate to use Reagan-style tactics against striking public employees.
“We may have to go through rough times,” Rauner told attendees of a March dinner meeting of the Tazewell County Republicans. “We may have to do what Ronald Reagan did with the air traffic controllers. Sort of have to do a do-over and shut things down for a little while. That’s what we’re going to do.”
A similar video shows the candidate addressing a crowd in March at the Cumberland County Lincoln Day celebration, saying that in the event of potential labor/management challenges, “I may have to take a strike and shut down the government for a few weeks and kind of redo everybody’s contract. That’s a possibility … I will do it proudly.”
Rauner is in the middle of a tight race to try to unseat Gov. Pat Quinn, a proven friend of labor championed by IBEW activists at Chicago Local 134.
“Thanks to governor Quinn, we have more project labor agreements in Illinois than all other states combined,” said Business Manager Terry Allen. “That’s a fact. And that’s great news for our hard-working membership.”
Local 134 political coordinator Don Finn said that Rauner’s perspectives don’t resonate with working families in the state. “He made $53 million last year. He’s not an everyday guy. Money is no problem for this candidate,” Finn said.
Rauner is a self-described member of the “.01 percent” who owns nine homes and made his fortune in the private equity market. Earlier this year, his campaign hit a hurdle when Rauner suggested that the state’s minimum wage – currently $8.25 an hour – should be lowered by $1. A driving force of his campaign is to oppose “government union bosses,” as he hopes to shift traditional defined benefit public pensions into riskier 401(k)-style plans.
Quinn, by comparison, passed the largest capital infrastructure bill in state history to fix roads, schools and bridges. According to statistics compiled by the state AFL-CIO, Illinois’ economic growth is the highest in the Midwest, and the state has added 242,000 private sector jobs under Quinn since his election in 2010.
For more on Rauner’s union-busting statements, visit the We Party Patriots’ website.
Look for more on Illinois local unions’ get-out-the-vote efforts in the October issue of the Electrical Worker.