News Local/State

Democrats Look To Win Back Union Vote

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The Laborers' International Union of North America is among the labor groups in Illinois trying to rally their members to vote for Democrats. Laborers' International Union of North America

With Labor Day parades stepping off across Illinois today, Democratic politicians are thinking about how to win back the once-solid support of union members.

Democrats lost a lot of union votes in the last two elections.

According to exit polling, about 40 percent of voters with a union member in the household went for the Republican — choosing President Trump and Governor Bruce Rauner.

John Penn is vice president of the Midwest Laborers’ International Union. He says it’s easy to convince union members to oppose Rauner’s agenda, which includes making it harder for unions to collect dues and lowering "prevailing wages” — which apply to government construction projects.

“If our membership wants a 30 percent cut in wages, then vote for Rauner," Penn said. "If you want to keep your wages and increase your wages, vote for Pritzker — I think it’s a pretty good message."

Penn was referring to J.B. Pritzker. The Democrat won the Midwest Laborers’ endorsement August 31.

Pritzker says Democrats had “message problems” in recent elections. He says he’s focusing on economic issues.

Jim Dixon is president of the Springfield and Central Illinois Trades and Labor Council. He says union leadership needs to have a conversation with its members.

“A good friend of mine says: ‘We all know we’re getting our you-know-what kicked, but we just don’t know who’s got their foot in the boot,’" Dixon said. "So we're going to help our members understand who’s got their foot in the boot, so that they can make an informed decision when it comes to election time."

Dixon says unions have to speak for all working people — even if they’re not paying dues — and focus on economic issues.