The Bizarro World that is the Illinois House of Representatives pulled off yet another takedown of the governor’s “Turnaround Agenda.” The Democrats who control the House took Republican Rauner's “right-to-work” idea from his agenda, wrote it into a bill, sponsored it themselves, and voted it down. Rauner, meeting with reporters earlier in the day, dismissed the debate and vote as “political theater,” part of negotiating difficult issues.
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Similar actions have taken place this week and last over the governor's proposed budget cuts, while “committees of the whole” have been called to air out the negatives of the governor’s ideas on tort reform and workers’ compensation.
Democrats explained they simply wanted to move along on the “Turnaround Agenda” before getting to the important budgeting process.
The final vote was zero voting Yes, 72 voting No, 37 voting Present, and nine casting no vote. Several Republicans did not want any union-related vote to go on their permanent record, and the only Republican to vote No was State Rep. Raymond Poe (R-Springfield), who has many union-represented state workers in his district.
State Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Swansea) carried the bill for Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago), who was not on the floor. House Minority Leader Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs) asked Hoffman, “How will you vote on this amendment today?” Hoffman deadpanned, “I’m voting against the speaker on this one.”
Illinois AFL-CIO president Michael Carrigan, in an e-mailed statement, said, “There have been thousands and thousands of phone calls from constituents to state representatives in the last three days, voicing their disapproval of Gov. Rauner’s scheme to have illegal right-to-work zones. Today there were visits from workers all around the state to talk to their representatives directly. Right-to-work hurts all families in Illinois and drives down wages and benefits for all workers. These families are working hard to make ends meet. They deserve a government that will support them, not try to knock them down.”
SEIU State Council president Tom Balanoff, in an e-mailed statement, said, “Today workers from across the state made their voices heard through the legislators that represent them. They rejected Rauner’s smokescreen agenda of economic regression masked in so called right-to-work. Governor Rauner’s right-to-work-for-less scheme would cause wages to significantly drop for all working families while decimating the middle class. What Illinoisans need is to restore balance to our state by reviving neighborhoods and building an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy few. Right-to-work-for-less is not economic development. It is not empowerment. It is economic regression.”
Under right-to-work legislation, it would be illegal for collective bargaining agreements to contain language requiring workers covered by the contract to be members of the union. The governor’s plan is to allow cities and counties to pass such laws, since it is probably not possible to pass it statewide.