GOP State Senator Gets Rare Union Endorsement

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A Republican Illinois state senator won a major union endorsement Wednesday for breaking with the Republican party to oppose Gov. Bruce Rauner.

The Illinois AFL-CIO endorsed Republican Sen. Sam McCann in his re-election bid after a vote by members. McCann won favor with the union for opposing the Republican governor’s economic overhaul plan, which involves limiting public sector union power and policies unions tend to oppose.

“One year to the day after Bruce Rauner was sworn in as Governor, we began the work of defeating Rauner’s allies in the General Assembly,” Illinois AFL-CIO President Michael Carrigan said in a statement. “Labor is united and ready to mobilize.”

Rauner tried to implement much of his plan while negotiating with public-sector unions for a new labor agreement. He argued that limiting union power will help the state economy, especially since Illinois is struggling with jobs and education.

“We endorsed against a Democrat that stood with Rauner and his anti-worker agenda and we supported one of the only Republicans to stand up to the Governor,” Carrigan also noted. “It’s not about political parties, it’s about who is willing to invest in middle class working families. The delegates understood the clear choices in front of them.”

Rauner was able to finalize agreements with most state unions, but a few holdouts have perpetuated the dispute. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare Illinois have stood their ground since the labor contract with the state expired in June.

“He will give money to candidates,” Carrigan added. “We will knock on doors and talk to our co-workers and neighbors. Rauner has a fat checkbook to buy TV ads, but workers and their unions have thousands of volunteers that will visit neighbors and call friends and co-workers to discuss why his plans only benefit those in the boardroom, not families around the kitchen table.”

The dispute also put Rauner at odds with state Democrats, who introduced a bill February that would have allowed unions to override the governor during troubled labor negotiations. It was passed by the Democratic majority in both houses of the state legislature, but Rauner vetoed it in July. McCann joined Democrats to vote during the veto override attempt.

“I represent more state employees than any other member of the General Assembly,” McCann told The State Journal-Register. “I received from my constituents over the last several weeks, literally thousands of points of contact, they asked me to vote to override.”

According to a memo sent out by the governor’s office in July, AFSCME and Rauner have been unable to reach consensus on several key issues. The union has demanded a 11.5 to 29 percent pay increase for state employees, a 37.5 hour work week and five weeks of fully paid vacation, among other privileges.

In contrast, the contract reached with the SEIU includes many benefits, but none go as far as AFSCME demands. The SEIU agreement expands health insurance benefits, includes new performance based bonus and reward programs and increased training opportunities. Unlike what AFSCME is demanding, the SEIU is asking for overtime benefits for workers who work over 40 hours a week.

Additionally, Rauner has advocated for outlawing mandatory union dues or fees. The policy, known as right-to-work, is opposed by most unions. In May, Democratic Illinois Speaker of the House Michael Madigan gave Rauner a week to submit a bill if he wanted a vote on the policy. Rauner failed to meet the deadline.

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