“Knock, Knock…Union Who?” Our New Landscape.
It’s a tough time to be in a public union in Illinois these days.
The primaries are coming up quickly, and we are sidelined…without anyone in the race. Without anyone to advocate for the working class, or the middle class.
It wasn’t always this way. Public unions in Illinois were able to influence and affect political outcomes. Legislators wanted to represent the voice of the workers, the people, and the middle class. Now, politicians avoid conversations about their past promises, identify the unions as being the state’s solution to its revenue problem, and justify the further fleecing of public sector workers with convoluted rationales like “then the courts can tell us what to do.”
And, of course, adding insult to injury is the latest support of Senator Kirk Dillard of Hinsdale by the Illinois Education Association as well the Illinois Retired Teachers Association – two organizations initially quick to jump into the legal argument against SB1.
Senator Dillard was quite clear in his articulation of position at his previous gubernatorial debate. His perception of a revenue problem was the “67% tax increase” that he “didn’t vote for” and his plan to help defeat it, despite Illinois’ serious income problems. Dillard also called for a Constitutional Amendment for a balanced budget, not a fair tax system. He did present the possibility of a blue ribbon panel to look at taxes in general. Thanks a lot.
And although Senator Dillard did not vote affirmative in “this last” SB1 pension reform, he suggested pension reform was an answer to the problems facing Illinois; furthermore, he believed that real money to save the state would come from Medicaid fraud reform. “If you really are looking for savings (translates money), it’s gotta come from the Medicaid system of Illinois.”
Still, public unions in Illinois are moving to endorse Dillard in the Republican primary, the IEA even giving some $250,000 in assistance. Of course, that’s chump change for Rauner.
According to IEA, Senator Dillard has recently given up his position as state chairman of the American Legislative Exchange Commission, a Koch brothers consortium which provides opportunities for “member” state legislators to journey to lovely climes and meet with legal advisors to help craft legislation for promotion of the Koch brothers liking: “Right to work legislation. Prohibiting union dues deductions. Prohibiting release time for union activities. Repealing minimum wage laws (Dillard’s own personal favorite). Opposing consumer protection laws” (http://preaprez.wordpress.com/ ).
And what does Kirk Dillard promise?
Does he promise to be different from now on? Probably not likely, despite assurances. There are more than 250,000 people affected by his earlier votes on bills undermining workers in Illinois. Review Glen Brown’s history of Senator Dillard’s previous positions: http://teacherpoetmusicianglenbrown.blogspot.com/2014/02/it-is-sad-state-of-affairs-when.html
Does he promise to be the same as he has been? An insider, as Rauner besmirches him, Dillard is a glad-hander who works in the old-fashioned way. After all, one of his chief bailiwicks in the gubernatorial debate is to lessen regulation and promote business. That doesn’t sound like a forward thinking legislator concerned with tax loopholes or revenue answers. But IEA and IRTA still support him.
On the other hand, Senator Dillard is an enemy the unions know and understand.
In likelihood, Dillard is the first wave of Kamikaze thrown at a greater threat called Bruce Rauner, who indeed fits nicely into the fascist/war metaphor. Recall, Rauner conjured Mitch Daniels as the supreme architect of state leadership in his bringing together big corporate interests to turn around Indiana (to make it a right to work state). In his debate moment, Rauner promised to gather the thirty greatest corporate people (would that include Ty Fahner and Ken Griffin?) to redirect Illinois from Springfield. A person without a cheap watch like Bruce’s, and a longer perception of time, might remember Il Duce’s (Mussolini) use of the big corporates to subjugate the political in Italy – which he later coined a beginning of fascism. And that helped…? Bruce Rauner, Uberleader. But I digress.
So where is my union, and what the heck are they doing?
A good friend of mine once admonished some of us (including me) about the dangers of not falling into line with my own union’s positions. Indeed, he may be correct, although cutting deals with a variety of devils seems at best discomforting.
“I always stay with the girl I brought to the dance,” he finger-wagged. But in the case of Illinois (and many states), the girl may have been dying all the way to the social.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the total number of union members fell by 400,000 last year, to 14.3 million, even though the nations overall employment rose by 2.4 million” ( http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/24/business/union-membership-drops-despite-job-growth.html?_r=0).
The increases in employment have been in retail and restaurant positions, vocations with little if any unionized opportunities. Even though we witness a televised surge of Wal-Mart employees demanding a living wage, most of the retail workforce is silent and sullenly capitulate.
What was a high of 35% union participation in the 1950’s is now hovering around 11.3%. Significant drops in manufacturing and government employees have been occurring, and embittered battles in Wisconsin and Indiana have resulted in unfortunate plunges in unions’ memberships. State laws prohibiting required payment of union fees have produced declines of 13 percent in Wisconsin and nearly 18 percent in Indiana – in just this last year.
The long-term view is not much better. “The bureau (Labor Statistics) said union membership in the public sector – long a labor stronghold – fell to 35.9 percent in 2012, from 37 percent the previous year. The number of government workers in unions fell by 234,000, as many teachers, police officers, and others lost their jobs. There were 7.3 million public employees in unions compared with seven million private sector workers” (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/24/business/union-membership-drops-despite-job-growth.html?_r=0 ).
So, without a winning hand, we are left to play out what cards we have?
Shall we throw down a futile gesture to counter Rauner in some way or another…and then what?
Support Quinn, of course. After all, this is Illinois politics, not a romantic date to the dance where some discretions might be obliquely observed, despite the sorry state of your date.
And, as one very intelligent and hard-working young active advised me, what makes the unpalatable and inevitable outcome less disgusting is the very ineffectiveness of Quinn, the complete disregard by the General Assembly for whatever he champions, and the very vagueness of his bumbling political intentions.
It is a sad state of affairs in the State of Illinois.