Monday, November 16, 2015

Rep. Kenneth Dunkin: Self-Anointed Strike Breaker?

"But…I did it for you…"
Rep. Ken Dunkin and Self-Anointed Strike Breakers

It was in 1803 the first persons to cross over a picket line of strikers were called black-leggers, probably in reference to the shoe polish that was integral to the Wisconsin bootmakers’ strike.  Of course, sadly, in past as well as current America, some historians propose the term to be possibly racist in nature.

The term “scab” was first used in England, of all places.  Europeans then and now seldom employed strikebreakers (or scabs) to continue operations; that was and is  more likely an action on the part of American factory owners and magnates. 

In the early 1850’s, the term SCAB was likewise a reference to “blacklegs,” for the latter indicated a severe infectious disease among British cattle that rendered the poor animals with necrotic skin and abscesses and, of course, oozing scabs.  Not a term of endearment if it were part of your job description.

And this somehow brings me to this last week’s dramatic kerfuffle in Springfield.

To look over Representative Ken Dunkin’s (5th District) explanation of his no-vote on SB570 – to overturn the Governor’s changes to the Child Care Assistance Program to his constituency is a script Capra-esque.

“That’s why I made a promise to fight Gov. Rauner’s child care cuts.  That’s why I spent countless hours on calls and meetings with the governor and his administration to demand these cuts be rolled back.  And that’s why I delivered for my constituents and reversed these cuts.”

Energetic and earnest young politician rolls up his sleeves, stomps by the smoke-filled rooms of the strategists and insiders, and flings open the doors of the hardheaded Governor to have an honest face-to-face quarrel in order to save the kids in his district and entire state.  Very Jimmy Stewart.

Here’s what happened.

Governor Bruce Rauner, using his administrative emergency powers to curtail or diminish human services to save money, had earlier cut the threshold for Child Care Assistance from 185% of the federal poverty level for families in Illinois to 50% of the federal poverty level.

Explanation:  Illinois’ median income for families is higher than most states in the nation; therefore, our historical threshold for various human services has always hovered well beyond the federal level. 

The Census Bureau on Median Income by Family Size shows Illinois families of three at nearly  $72,500.  (By the way, that’s between $5000 and $10,000 more than our neighboring states which are held as models for Illinois. )

The 2015 federal poverty level for a family of three is $20,090. 

So, it makes sense that Governors in the past and the Illinois General Assembly have provided an increase in the onset for assistance in the state. 

Prior to Governor Rauner’s lowering the threshold to 50% of the federal level, Illinois’ threshold for Child Care Assistance (family of 3 or more) was 185% of the federal poverty level…or…$37,166. 

A mother with two children making $36,000 would be eligible. 

Rauner’s earlier “emergency action” would have reduced that level to 50%.    In other words, that same mother and children would need make less than $10,056 to qualify for assistance.  Quite a devastating distinction.

Those many state resources devoted to caring for impoverished children and families were quick to react. 

“The unprecedented use of the Administration’s emergency rulemaking authority to restrict eligibility for child care assistance has resulted in the denial of 90 percent of applicants who would have otherwise been eligible for child care services through CCAP. That means approximately 20,000 children have been rejected from the program since the drastic restrictions took effect July 1.”

The Speaker and the Illinois Senate were likewise politically punctual, and SB570 was crafted to strike down the Governor’s draconian changes, reinstate the original thresholds, and prevent any current or future governor from making such alterations again without permission of the General Assembly.

 As you already know, the bill needed 71 votes in the House, but got only 70 as Representative Kenneth Dunkin once again avoided voting at all.

According to Rep. Dunkin, “Let me be very clear about what would have happened without a deal in place – what would have happened if the House or Senate passed SB570.  Childcare income eligibility would have stayed at 50 percent of the federal poverty level for at least another 60 days as we waited for the governor to veto the bill…The folks who wanted prolonged suffering to help their political agenda won’t be very happy with me.  But I don’t work for them.  I work for you.” (SJR)

Well, not all of you.  Rep. Dunkin’s sidebar with Rauner and his team resulted in a partial return to the original Child Care Assistance threshold of 185%.  Instead, it now will be 167%.  That will be nearly a $5000 drop in annual income in order to qualify. 

From $37,166 to $32,545.  In other words, a drop of nearly 5% in population numbers of families’ earnings.

According to the latest figures on the Illinois Child Care report, nearly 163.500 children require funding from Child Care Assistance.  That constitutes a probable change of nearly 5% less in children provided Child Care Assistance. 
Nearly 8000 children will be dropped from Child care Assistance after Rep. Durkin’s sidebar with Rauner. 

The collective group of Democrats in the General Assembly would have stripped Rauner of his ability to make such draconian cuts, rolled back the thresholds, and doubled down on the Republican attempt to use once again the marginalized as the scapegoats for the Democrats’ not coming to heel.

This and the likely blowback by senior members of his own Republican party gave the CEO Governor reason to change his original cuts to 50% of federal poverty level for assistance.

What to do?  Find a patsy?

In the Mohawk Valley Formula, a 1930's plan for strikebreaking and undermining collective bargaining usually credited to members of the Rand family, one important tenet is to find suitable puppets or "loyal" workers who can be co-opted to break solidarity.  Whatever it takes. 

But Rep. Dunkin argues he works for you. And he argues that without his timely intervention, all might have been lost.

A man of service, or a simply serviceable man?

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