When it comes to popularity polls, Illinois Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan is in a consistent race to the bottom with Republican Governor Bruce Rauner. The popular opinion is “a curse on both their houses” and Rauner continually tries to blemish Democratic candidates by linking them with Madigan.
Despite his low poll ranking, Illinois workers owe a big thank you to Speaker Madigan. Why? Because without his forthright stand, Rauner would have wreaked havoc on workers’ job rights. Madigan is the wall that has protected the working class.
Rauner was elected on a very clear agenda. This included weakening union rights, curtailing the construction prevailing wage, cutting benefits for injured workers, lowering wages and pensions and creating so-called “right-to-work (for less)” zones, which would curtail union rights.
Not a single piece of anti-union legislation made it to the Governor’s desk, thanks to Madigan’s control of the State House of Representatives. Madigan has stood firmly with organized labor throughout Rauner’s reign.
“Bruce Rauner has spent two and a half years refusing to compromise on his demands. His corporate agenda means destroying unions, less wages, and weakening protections for regular working families,” said Illinois AFL-CIO President Michael T. Carrigan. “Speaker Madigan has continued to focus on getting a fair state budget. He understands the importance of unions in our state’s economic security and middle class. He has defended workers from Rauner’s Illinois of haves and have nots.”
Passing legislation is where long-term change takes place, and Rauner has only succeeded in administrative rulings, thanks to his appointees. He has also stonewalled a contract with state workers represented by AFSCME and held the state budget hostage to his anti-union demands.
Through his appointees, construction prevailing wages were not updated as state law requires. Thanks to labor initiated court cases in Chicago and East St. Louis, Rauner’s Department of Labor appointees now have to follow the law.
Looking north to Wisconsin, west to Missouri or east to Indiana, a similar anti-worker agenda was successful in all those states. They are now all “right-to-work (for less)” states, injured workers have fewer rights, union contract bargaining rights are greatly reduced and the construction prevailing wage is limited in scope, if not totally abolished.
Illinois is now the union bulwark state; a strong labor movement, coupled with effective labor political action, has kept Rauner’s agenda at bay.
“Bruce Rauner has hijacked the Republican party with his money, with his extreme anti-union agenda and with his willingness to punish anybody who doesn’t toe his line,” said John Penn, Laborers International Union of North America Vice-President. “Where there used to be Republicans in the statehouse who would vote with unions on issues important to working families, almost all are now too scared to do so. Protecting Illinois workers from Rauner’s attacks is a job that only the Democrats are willing to do and no one has done that better, stronger or longer than Speaker Michael Madigan.”
by Mike Matejka, Grand Prairie Union News
Livingston & McLean Counties Bldg & Trades Council