Thousands Protest Rauner’s Call To Change Labor Laws
About 8,000 union supporters rallied outside the Illinois Capitol Wednesday to protest Gov. Bruce Rauner's calls to change collective bargaining policies. A coalition of labor groups marched by the governor's mansion on their way to the Capitol.
Rauner is in the midst of prolonged negotiations for a new labor contract with the largest union representing state workers, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
The march comes days after he vetoed a measure that would let an arbitrator settle state-employee wages and working conditions if union negotiations stalled.
Annette Edwards is a member of the Service Employees International Union. She riled the crowd saying she lost her job as a child care worker after the governor cut eligibility for the program.
"Bruce Rauner is no job creator," she said. "He is a job killer. I lost my job because of his cuts. He's holding our state hostage so that he can pass through tax cuts for the rich, and pay cuts, service cuts, and job cuts for the rest of us."
The union workers were joined by two prominent Democrats.
There was a time - in recent memory - that the labor movement wasn't all too fond of House Speaker Michael Madigan. Though he's a Democrat, he helped pass bills cutting government worker pension benefits. And he's backed corporate tax breaks.
But at this rally -- union members greeted him like a rock star.
"Gov. Rauner wants to send injured workers to welfare," he said. "How do you feel?" Crowd: "NO!"
"Here's the last question," Madigan said. "Gov. Rauner wants Illinois to go right to work. How do you feel?" The crowd responded with the same answer.
Senate President John Cullerton also took the stage; he says Democrats will stay tough and fight for the middle class. Rauner said appointing an arbitrator would strip him of his power to represent taxpayers at the bargaining table.
The governor and AFSCME are making their cases to the state labor board as to whether contract negotiations have stalled.