Rauner Hints State Workers Paid Too Much, Shouldn’t Be Able To Strike

Gov. Bruce Rauner speaks at Richland Community College in Decatur Tuesday.

llinois Gov. Bruce Rauner speaks to students, teachers and community members on the state of Illinois' economy at Richland Community College Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015, in Decatur Ill. Rauner continued to lay out priorities for his first year in office, telling the audience about a proposal to create so-called “right to work zones” was aimed at jump-starting economically depressed areas in the union-friendly state.

(AP Photo/Seth Perlman)

State employees can rest assured: Gov. Bruce Rauner does not want to cut their salaries. But a memo sent to state legislators Monday warns of other changes the governor would like to see.

You needn't blame a state government employee for feeling a bit of whiplash.

Shortly after becoming governor, Rauner tried to spread goodwill, reaching out to workers with visits to state offices.

And then there was the video he emailed to workers shortly after taking office in January.

"I want to make Illinois a wonderful place to work for everyone here," Rauner said in the video. "I want good, fair compensation."

But then came a series of speeches, previewing his State of the State address on Wednesday, during which he says Illinois' payroll is bloated.

In his Monday memo, Rauner writes that he has no intent of proposing a pay cut. But he paired it with PowerPoint slides that aim to showcase jobs in which state workers -- like cooks and barbers -- make far more than the average wage for that job. The Republican writes that spending on salaries is unsustainable, and called for major, structural reforms. 

The memo also further solidifies what Rauner wants in the state's future relationship with labor unions. 

It hints that Illinois should follow the rules federal employees do --- they can bargain over things like work hours, but not over wages and pensions. And they cannot strike.

Anders Lindall is a spokesman for AFSCME, the state's largest public-employee union. Lindall says Rauner's trying to tear down middle class workers.

"It is wrong to vilify workers who serve the public, who earn middle class wages and who have a right to a voice through their union," Lindall said.

Last week Rauner proposed the state should allow counties and municipalities to vote on right-to-work zones. Two days later, the governor said he wants a ban on political contributions by unions and other groups that contract with the state.

Story source: Illinois Public Radio