The Illinois House shut down Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner's proposal for right-to-work zones in the state.
The chamber voted Thursday 0-72-37 on a right-to-work measure crafted by Democrats in response to Rauner's right-to-work push. The governor has yet to introduce his right-to-work plan to the legislature in bill form.
Some Republican lawmakers, who have described Thursday's right-to-work vote as a political stunt, skipped the vote. State Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie) blasted Republicans for essentially being bought by the governor on the issue, noting that the GOPers' political funds saw an infusion of cash from Rauner prior to the vote.
Lang said on the House floor: "$400,000 this week. What were those checks for?"
Rauner, meanwhile, pushed back on the belief that the right-to-work vote came in an effort to make him look foolish.
"Difficult negotiations in government often involve political theater. That's a little bit of what that is. I don't take it that way. This is just part of a political process," Rauner said, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. "We're working together and we'll get through it. . . . There's a lot of pressure from special-interest groups who don't want to change. We are in a long slow decline we need to grow pretty strongly . . . we are encouraging Republicans to stay strong together. We're a super-minority."
Rather than proposing a statewide right-to-work law, Rauner wants to let local Illinois communities enact their own right-to-work policies as part of his pro-business, anti-union "Turnaround Agenda" for the state. Right-to-work policies generally look to eliminate the requirement that workers pay union dues or fees when they take a job covered by a collective bargaining agreement.
Illinois Education Association President Cinda Klickna offered this statement after the right-to-work vote:
Having spent my career in the classroom, I'm always looking for 'teachable moments,' opportunities to analyze an event in order to make sure everyone understands what happened and why. Today we had one such moment when the House overwhelmingly rejected Governor Rauner's plan for so-called, 'right-to-work' zones.
The governor's proposal was rejected for good reason. Workers in states that have enacted these laws make an average of $1,500 a year less than workers in states like Illinois. Studies also suggest that 'right-to-work' laws increase unemployment. These outcomes are as likely to happen at the local level, which is why communities throughout the state are saying 'no' to the governor as well.
'Right to work' is intended to weaken unions, such as mine, the Illinois Education Association, which represents teachers and support professionals who advocate for high quality teaching and learning conditions in their schools.
At the local level, teachers who work through their union advocate for manageable class sizes and against high stakes testing.
At the state level, through their union, our members advocate for adequate education funding for every student.
Here's today's teachable moment takeaway:
The teachers are the voice of the students, and the union is the voice of the teachers.
It's time for Governor Rauner to drop the campaign against unions and concentrate on improving our schools and balancing our state's budget.
SEIU* Illinois State Council President Tom Balanoff issued this response following Thursday's development:
Today workers from across the state made their voices heard through the legislators that represent them. They rejected Rauner's smokescreen agenda of economic regression masked in 'so called' right to work. Past action drives future action and we know that time and time again Rauner made millions at the expense of everyday people, while running his private equity firm, which bought, sold, and chopped up companies. Rauner's current attacks on the workers of our state come as no surprise and I applaud the legislators who saw right through Rauner's approach and stood up for Illinois' working families.
Governor Rauner vilifying workers and their rights to collective bargaining to try to solve the state's problems is not the answer. Austerity doesn't work. In order to stimulate the economy, the middle class must have the economic security achieved through increased wages, and access to decent benefits and an adequate safety net.
Governor Rauner's right to work for less scheme would cause wages to significantly drop for all working families while decimating the middle class. What Illinoisans need is to restore balance to our state by reviving neighborhoods and building an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy few.
Right to work for less is not economic development. It is not empowerment. It is economic regression.
*The SEIU Illinois Council sponsors this website.