Don't look now but Illinois new GOP governor is taking on public employee unions
New Republican Governor Bruce Rauner of Illinois is taking on the most powerful special interest in the state - public employee unions - and he's getting some support from Democrats.
In truth, Rauner has little choice. Public union pensions are out of control. The pension crisis in Illinois is easily the worst in the nation and the Rauner administration is already looking for ways to cut benefits - a move that would have been considered sacrilegious previously but is now being considered even by Democrats.
Also, Rauner issued an executive order:
prohibiting unions from collecting so-called fair share fees from non-union members. These mandatory fees come from government workers who choose not to be union members but are nonetheless represented by unions in contract negotiations. In effect, Rauner’s order by fiat makes Illinois a right-to-work state for public employees — a measure that, opponents argue, requires legislation.
There are so many liberal judges in Illinois that the executive order will probably be successfully challenged. But it is at least a shot across the bow to AFSCME, whose contract with the state expires in July. Rauner is putting the union on notice that a new sherrif is in town and they're not going to walk all over him as they have previous governors.
The union responded to the executive order with typical bombast:
Rauner (whom CTU’s Lewis recently called “Scott Walker on steroids”) has emerged lately as the most aggressive adversary to public-sector unions. At the same time Rauner signed his executive order against fair share fees, he filed a federal lawsuit in Chicago asking a court to approve his order. “Forced union dues are a critical cog in the corrupt bargain that is crushing taxpayers,” Rauner said. “An employee who is forced to pay unfair share dues is being forced to fund political activity with which they disagree. That is a clear violation of First Amendment rights — and something that, as governor, I am duty bound to correct.”
“It is crystal clear by this action,” answered Roberta Lynch, executive director of AFSCME Local 31, “that the governor’s supposed concern for balancing the state budget is a paper-thin excuse that can’t hide his real agenda: silencing working people and their unions who stand up for the middle class.” Local 31 represents about 35,000 state employees, the majority of whom are members, the union said.
Illinois is burdened by a constitutional amendment that prevents the legislature from cutting pension benefits. But that doesn't mean that the state can't negotiate a pension agreement where future retirees won't be such a drain on the state's treasury.
As powerful as public unions were in next door Wisconsin where Governor Scott Walker may ride his union reforms to the White House, Illinois unions are even more corrupt and more entrenched. This is going to be an epic battle watched by the entire nation as a Republican governor in a Democratic state looks to bring public unions in line.