Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner on Monday attacked unions again by issuing an executive order that makes dues optional for government workers.
“A major reason why government unions are so dominant in Illinois is the decision to institute card check – forced unionizing – in state government, which had the effect of bullying and intimidating many state employees into joining the union,” Rauner told reporters at a press conference according to the local affiliate of NPR.
Since taking office in January, Rauner has already taken numerous opportunities to express his opposition to union power within the state. Prior to his latest speech, Rauner pointed towards Prevailing Wage Laws and Project Labor Agreements as some of the few examples of how labor unions are hurting the state through unfair laws.
Unions were quick to condemn the executive order. Roberta Lynch, the executive director of the AFSCME Council 31, called the decision illegal, warning it will hurt many workers.
“Child protection workers, caregivers for veterans and the disabled, correctional officers and everyone else employed by state government has a right to a voice at work and in the democratic process through their union,” Lynch declared in a statement.
“Bruce Rauner’s scheme to strip the rights of state workers and weaken their unions by executive order is a blatantly illegal abuse of power,” Lynch argued. “Perhaps as a private equity CEO Rauner was accustomed to ignoring legal and ethical standards, but Illinois is still a democracy and its laws have meaning.”
“It is crystal clear by this action that the governor’s supposed concern for balancing the state budget is a paper-thin excuse that can’t hide his real agenda: Silencing working people and their unions who stand up for the middle class,” Lynch concluded. “Our union and all organized labor will stand together with those who believe in democracy to overturn Bruce Rauner’s illegal action and restore the integrity of the rule of law.”
“This is really a smoke-screen for what the billionaire governor wants to achieve,” Tom Balanoff, the president of Service Employees’ International Union Local 1, told Fox News. “He wants to bring right to work to this state. It’s going to lower peoples’ wages, lower their benefits.”
Fox News reports that Rauner has already put together a legal team which will handle a plan to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to declare “fair share” provisions unconstitutional. The team is headed by a former U.S. attorney and lawyers at the Chicago firm Winston and Strawn.
Rauner hopes that reforming labor policy and unions will allow the state to overcome some major economic obstacles that have hindered progress in recent years. According to The Illinois Policy Institute, the state is struggling in jobs and education, two areas vital to economic growth and stability.
“Illinois’ low standing for total job growth is unusual given that Illinois has the largest population in the Midwest and the fifth largest nationally,” the Institute noted in a report for 2014. “It takes a particularly toxic combination of bad policy and corrupt dealings to hinder such a large and talented workforce from keeping up with the likes of Kentucky and Connecticut.”
“Illinois tracks last of all states for private-sector job creation in 2014, one of only four states to be negative for jobs on the year,” the report added.
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