News Local/State

AFSCME Puts Aside Differences, Endorses Quinn


Illinois' largest public employees union has made an about-face in its attitude toward Governor Pat Quinn. Over the weekend, AFSCME leaders endorsed him during a meeting in Peoria. It's a classic case of going with "the devil you know."

AFSCME has spent the better part of the past several years upset at Gov. Quinn. After all, it's Quinn who made it his mission to sign a law that would strip many of the union's 100,000 active and retired members of some of their retirement benefits ... a law that's now being contested in court.

But it's not just pensions.

Quinn has fought with AFSCME over state employee's salaries; the governor's attempt to deny workers back-pay they'd been promised in a contract also landed the two sides in court. Things got bad enough that in 2012, AFCME members basically hijacked governor's day at the fair in protest of Quinn.

Even so, AFSCME leaders voted to back Quinn in his racer against Republican's nominee, Bruce Rauner, in this year's governor's race.

The endorsement can be viewed less about support of Quinn, and more about fear, rejection, and even loathing of Rauner.

A statement issued by AFSCME, quoting its director, Roberta Lynch, is telling. There's no praise for Quinn, but heaps of criticism of Rauner. Lynch is quoted as saying, "We won't let our great state become the latest victim in this venture capitalist's long line of hostile takeovers."

"Although we have had serious differences with Governor Quinn in recent years ...he acknowledges the right of workers to collective bargaining, advocates for the revenue needed to provide public services, and has pushed to raise wages for the lowest paid workers.The stark contrast between these two candidates—with Rauner so clearly opposed to the interests of working families—impels our union to support Governor Quinn’s re-election,” Lynch says.

Rauner has consistently pointed to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Indiana's former Gov. Mitch Daniels as political role models; both leaders oversaw making their states "right to work" -- a policy that diminishes unions' strength.  During the primary, Rauner consistently blamed "government unions bosses" for Illinois' financial troubles --- pointing to just these sort of scenarios: If Quinn does win, it would be thanks in part to AFSCME and its large campaign apparatus; the next governor will have to negotiate a new contract with the union.

After allegations that Quinn treated AFSCME favorably in a contact leading up to his 2010 race for governor against Republican state Sen. Bill Brady, of Bloomington, Illinois passed a law that limits a contract to six months past a governor's term, therefore no longer holding a new governor to the bargaining agreement negotiated by his predecessor.

A video circulated by a teachers' union shows Rauner saying during a broader speech that he would be willing to "shut down" government in order to get it on track.

Other labor organizations have already endorsed Gov. Quinn, including the AFL-CIO's state federation, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and Illinois' three major teachers' unions --- the Illinois Education Association (IEA), the Illinois Federation of Teachers (IFT) and, most recently, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU).

AFSCME also announced endorsements of:

-Democratic U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (over state Sen. Jim Oberweis, R-Sugar Grove)

-state Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-Champaign, for treasurer (over former House Minority Leader Tom Cross, R-Oswego)

-Judy Baar Topinka, the Republican nominee for comptroller (over Lt. Gov Sheila Simon)

-Democratic Sec. of State Jesse White (over Repulican Mike Webster)