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Unions ponder next move

Monday, Nov 25, 2013

* My weekly syndicated newspaper column…

Illinois union leaders are reportedly mulling several options about what to do in the governor’s race. But the only thing the leaders appear to agree on so far is that anti-union Republican gazillionaire Bruce Rauner cannot be allowed to win.

Some union honchos are looking at endorsing a candidate in the Republican primary. State Sen. Kirk Dillard, for instance, already has strong support from the Operating Engineers, a union that is now even more opposed to Rauner since the candidate’s endorsement by the strongly anti-union Associated Builders and Contractors group. Other unions have also taken keen notice of that endorsement.

Surprisingly enough, Dillard is also being looked at by some public employee unions. They’re hoping that he’ll be a “No” vote on pension reform. Dillard told the Kankakee Daily Journal several days ago that he wants employees to pay more into the system and wants a later retirement age, neither of which appear to be in the cards at the moment. Dillard would know what was going on behind the scenes with the pension reform conference committee because his running mate, Rep. Jil Tracy, sits on the committee.

However he chooses to explain it, a “No” vote on pension reform could bring him closer to a possible union nod. Then again, Dillard told the Sun-Times last week that he had always supported pension reform and denied rumors that he was planning to vote against the bill. But even a pension bill “Yes” vote will not, in and of itself, prevent some unions from endorsing Dillard.

Dillard’s campaign has struggled to raise money, barely able to meet its expenses (if that), so a labor endorsement would bring in much needed dollars. Unions have backed Dillard in the past, to the tune of $400,000 from public employee unions alone during his career. They know he’s a social conservative (he was endorsed last week by noted figures on the far right like Phyllis Schlafly and Penny Pullen), but they feel they can at least get a fair hearing from him.

Treasurer Dan Rutherford has tried to reach out to labor, particularly on the pension issue. He has attempted to steer away from taking a hard public line on pension reform, urging compromise. But Rutherford doesn’t have much history with the unions, so he’ll have to work very hard to woo labor leaders if he wants their support. Dillard speaks their language while Rutherford is more of an unknown quantity. Rutherford’s campaign has far more money on hand than Dillard’s, but nowhere near enough to compete with Rauner.

Still, does any candidate really want organized labor’s support in a Republican gubernatorial primary? If you’ll recall, a Capitol Fax/We Ask America poll conducted August 21st found that a whopping 80 percent of likely GOP primary voters said they’d be less inclined to vote for a Republican candidate for governor “who received hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from public employee unions.”

So, others in organized labor are strenuously arguing against any endorsement at all, believing today’s Republican Party voters are so hostile to labor’s interests that overt support for a preferred union candidate would almost surely result in a political death sentence and result in a host of unknown, uncontrollable possibilities.

That particular faction is arguing hard for an all-out assault on Rauner during the primary. None of the other candidates would be nearly as hostile to labor’s interest as Rauner would be, goes the reasoning.

An all-out TV advertising assault on Rauner could knock him out of contention. There’s a thick opposition research book on Rauner, but his association with Democrats like Mayor Rahm Emanuel would be just as enormously toxic for GOP primary voters as public employee campaign contributions (83 percent less likely to support, according to an August Capitol Fax/We Ask America poll).

However, some labor leaders say that Gov. Pat Quinn has been moving to the opinion that running against Rauner might not be so horrible after all. Despite Rauner’s potential to spend tens of millions of dollars next year, some Quinn backers think Rauner’s background gives them enough ammunition to thump him.

Yeah, well Rauner has enough of a personal fortune to stay on the air from now through next November without a break. His ads are already focused on painting Quinn as the bad guy, and that theme will only intensify if he wins the GOP primary. He could bury Quinn before the governor has a chance to bury him.


- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Oswego Willy - Monday, Nov 25, 13 @ 10:27 am:

    The Unions need to listen to “Remo” in “Casino” when deciding to go after Rauner ealry and stop Ranuer from winning the Nomination.

    The Unions could roll the dice and see if they get Rauner, and THEN take Bruce Rauner on, and hope that Quinn can compete … or listen to “Remo” …

    “Why take a chance?”

  2. - Spliff - Monday, Nov 25, 13 @ 10:31 am:

    The unions need to step up to the plate and prove that they can effectively put there money where their mouths are to frame the debate in this state. They need to focus on their issues and scortch the earth. They need to look at their losses in Michigan, Wisconsin etc. Love their friends and take out their enemies.

  3. - OneMan - Monday, Nov 25, 13 @ 10:38 am:

    I think part of the problem is and Rich has pointed this out is that it is kind of hard for them to find friends anymore. You could argue both Madigan and Quinn have to some degree or another left them high and dry. As much as I suspect Quinn would/will say to them privately ‘trust me’ I am not sure if would fly with the rank and file.

    The problem I think they will have with Dillard is how socially conservative he has become, I suspect they can resolve that but it is another challenge.

  4. - Anonymous - Monday, Nov 25, 13 @ 10:38 am:

    Appears to be the unions last shot at it. Someone like Rauner gets in office, there won’t be any unions left next time around. Someone has to speak on behalf of people who actually work for a living.

  5. - Cassandra - Monday, Nov 25, 13 @ 10:39 am:

    Those Quinn backers are so right. See today’s Trib article about Rauner’s “many million-dollar homes.”It’s all so Romney-esque. Even Romney didn’t want to run initially, we now read in various accounts of the 2012 presidential campaign. He was right.

    But kudos to Rauner for providing so much entertainment. Railing against (insert Dillard,
    Rutherford, Brady) just isn’t going to get the Dems much attention. Rauner can help Dems with that.

  6. - unionmaybe - Monday, Nov 25, 13 @ 10:41 am:

    Or maybe, sit on the side lines and concentrate on the lower level House and Senate races in the next few years and change the Internal structures in Springfield, work on a stronger defense, maybe put up Union canidates….. AFSCME spends millions, let it ride for awhile and see where this goes……

  7. - OneMan - Monday, Nov 25, 13 @ 11:00 am:

    I am sure John Corzine had a bunch of homes too (likely even more cash that Raunner). Don’t forget there was a reason he was refereed to as Governor Romney. Last time I checked NJ and MA were not exactly bastions of the conservative wing of the GOP…

    This is the state that re-elected Rod even when I suspect most of us here regardless of party were turned off by the dude and we not surprised when the G showed up at his door.

    Don’t overestimate the ‘problem’ his money is.

  8. - Cassandra - Monday, Nov 25, 13 @ 11:12 am:

    Nevertheless, there is a lot of anger out in the real world of the millions still suffering from the after-effects of the recent recession. Including lots of people who can barely hang on to one house. Corzine ran first in 2005, before the recession hit. He lost in 2009.

    The Quinn folks will have to figure out how to get the maximum benefit. And they will. Nine homes. Wow, just wow.

  9. - Phineas J. Whoopee - Monday, Nov 25, 13 @ 11:19 am:

    I have alwatys thought that Rutherford was the heavy favorite in the GOP primary for a whole bunch of reasons and would be a very tough opponent for Quinn. I’m pretty confident, when all is said and done, the collective mind of the GOP will realize this as well.

    But I hope not-Go Rauner!

  10. - Downstate - Monday, Nov 25, 13 @ 11:21 am:

    Great article Rich.

    I do remember in the Spring that many Democrats were salivating at running against Rauner. That’s certainly not the feel I get anymore.

    I think the union motivation is to keep Rauner out, in that they don’t want the general election to be a referendum on unions and pensions. Brillarford (Brady, Dillard and Rutherford) are all milquetoast by comparison.

  11. - RNUG - Monday, Nov 25, 13 @ 11:23 am:

    IMO, the unions should be up with two basic ‘win hearts and minds’ ads:

    1) Talking about how all the politicans in Springfield stole the pension money to provide needed state services to the underpriveledged, with one pretty chart (remember Ross?) showing the pensions funds would have been fine IF the money had been put it. Don’t have to name names; just a general Pox on Both Houses type approach

    2) Soft and cuddly ads showing various state workers keeping promises (delivering services) to improve people’s lives and then arguing basic fairness insists these (now retired) people should have the (earned pension) promises that were made to them. Again, no specific candidate needs to be named.

    No need to mention the tax increase that will be needed to keep the promises. Once the unions start to move the discussion to the ‘promise keeping’ side, they will be showing their ‘clout’ or lack of. Then, and only then, do they approach individual candidates about possible support.

    Will this work? Maybe .. at least it is better than doing nothing.

  12. - AFSCME Steward - Monday, Nov 25, 13 @ 11:25 am:

    Does this poll take into account union voters, that are normally with the Dems, crossing over to vote for a union endorsed GOP candidate ?

    While I am leaning towards Rutherford, and supported Dillard in the 10 GOP primary, I would take a look at Dillard again if he courted union voters. One of the problems facing the GOP in Illinois is the anti-union stance of much of “the Base”. Dillard has taken a strong turn to the right in this cycle. The question is does this hard right turn put him in with the anti-union & anti public employee “GOP base”.

    I was hoping that the unions would look to the GOP as an alternative to the Dems. Actually, from the perspective of a longtime state employee, we actually had better working conditions under GOP Governors than we had since the Dems took power. Thompson & Ryan were both good to state employees. Edgar was better than Quinn. Blago, don’t even get me started. Madigan has an opinion that the unions have no chouice but to back Democrats. Seriously backing a GOP candidate would send shockwaves through the Dems and would virtually guarantee a GOP Governor in 14. Rauner & Brady have both taken strong anti-union stances. Rutherford’s rhetoric has been moderate and sensible. Since I am a social conservative on most issues, I do not necessarily have a problem with Dillard’s turn to the right. However, if his hard right turn involves attacking union members & government employees, it would be very unlikely that I would vote for him again.

    “Still, does any candidate really want organized labor’s support in a Republican gubernatorial primary? If you’ll recall, a Capitol Fax/We Ask America poll conducted August 21st found that a whopping 80 percent of likely GOP primary voters said they’d be less inclined to vote for a Republican candidate for governor “who received hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from public employee unions.”

  13. - Ruby - Monday, Nov 25, 13 @ 11:56 am:

    === stay on the air from now through next November without a break.===

    …and meanwhile angering the voters by making this an endless political campaign!

  14. - PublicServant - Monday, Nov 25, 13 @ 12:00 pm:

    RNUG, I agree wholeheartedly, but the Unions should have been doing this all along to counter all the free press Ty and his buddies have been getting. They needed to counter the issue-framing from the get-go, and didn’t. Better late than never.

  15. - Jeff Trigg - Monday, Nov 25, 13 @ 12:11 pm:

    Perhaps the old Solidarity Party needs to make another appearance for the public union members. Rauner should drop out of the GOP primary if he still isn’t polling well, and run as an Independent since he has enough money.

  16. - Downstater - Monday, Nov 25, 13 @ 12:19 pm:

    Looks like the unions are getting more than a little worried. Especially, the public employee unions. They getting little sympathy from the average non union worker and probably little sympathy from other union workers. In other states, the private sector unions have revolted, against the greedy public sector unions.

  17. - wordslinger - Monday, Nov 25, 13 @ 12:48 pm:

    –In other states, the private sector unions have revolted, against the greedy public sector unions.–

    Some examples?

  18. - Downstater - Monday, Nov 25, 13 @ 1:10 pm:

    New Jersey and Wisconsin.

  19. - Downstater - Monday, Nov 25, 13 @ 1:11 pm:

    a group of building trade unions who contributed $500,000 last year. Their decision to back Mr. Cuomo — and help finance an offensive against their public-sector brethren — illuminates a deepening fissure in the labor movement

  20. - Anonymous - Monday, Nov 25, 13 @ 1:40 pm:

    The “unions” have mere pennies in their pockets to counter the likes of Ty and gang. Ty and cronies know that full well and jumped out front to spread false information to the public and the public, by and large, has bought it hook line and sinker. Not only is it a matter of money, of course, but aggression and bullying from the cronies to get what they want. It’s would’ve been good to counter Ty’s ads when they first came out, but you have to understand the population of workers you’re talking about. They are givers not grabby bullies. If they’re living on an average pension 30-40 K,(and that’s all they have) I don’t think we’re talking about the heavy financial hitters of the cronies. I think they’re just now starting to get mad—-no—-enraged! by this attack. With not many resources at their disposal, the lawsuit and their vote is their only hope.

  21. - Juvenal - Monday, Nov 25, 13 @ 1:56 pm:

    SEIU and AFSCME should not endorse in the GOP primary, nor AFL-CIO.

    But IEA, IFT, FOP and Firefighters need to come in heavy against Rauner in the primary. To be successful, they probably need to agree to support Dillard or Rutherford, and i just dont see any signs that Dillard can win the primary.

    Butween them, the four unions have enough members and retirees who either vote in GOP primaries already or independents who can be convinced to control the outome of the primary. Without spending a dime of PAC money.

    And even if Rauner tries to counter-punch, it is dang hard to attaxk your opponent for having the support of law enfircement, first responders and kindergarten teachers.

  22. - Hamilton - Monday, Nov 25, 13 @ 2:00 pm:

    ==If you’ll recall, a Capitol Fax/We Ask America poll conducted August 21st found that a whopping 80 percent of likely GOP primary voters said they’d be less inclined to vote for a Republican candidate for governor “who received hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from public employee unions.”==

    I could use some explanation on the way these questions are asked. The answer to this question doesn’t require a scale of how unlikely, likely, etc. So while we know “less inclined”, we don’t know how less inclined these voters are. Could be it doesn’t matter at all when compared to another factor, for example. Or could be, as a Republican primary voter, you would feel some social pressure to answer “less inclined” but in the voting booth some other factor is far more influential. Wouldn’t questions exploring those factors be more helpful?


  23. - Percival - Monday, Nov 25, 13 @ 2:16 pm:

    If I were a union strategist, I’d keep my powder dry and stockpiled, to see if Rauner can clearly pass both Dillard and Brady. Then decide.

  24. - Demoralized - Monday, Nov 25, 13 @ 2:27 pm:

    Don’t the unions (at least AFSCME) have a problem with the GOP candidates also since all of them want to let the tax increase expire, which will require the state budget to be decimated with cuts. That would mean a ton of union folks getting pink slips. I’m not sure the unions really have anybody they can support.

  25. - Demoralized - Monday, Nov 25, 13 @ 2:29 pm:

    ==against the greedy public sector unions. ==

    And they are greedy because???

  26. - Marty - Monday, Nov 25, 13 @ 2:40 pm:

    I am a non-union, state retiree. I have never voted in a primary but will vote in the upcoming GOP primary. I will vote one issue, ie. pension protection. The candidate that stands up for protecting my earned pension will get my vote. I believe that there are thousands of current employee and retirees just like me. Candidates, we will vote!

  27. - railrat - Monday, Nov 25, 13 @ 2:51 pm:

    I’d invest heavily on what the Chicago Operating Engineers do, they “endorsed” Mitch Daniels and gave him everything they could muster. Let him stay in officers homes when traveling etc., got the paying appointments they wanted for those officers… Until ??? oops ! should have read his book I guess !!

  28. - Tsavo - Monday, Nov 25, 13 @ 3:13 pm:


    I am also a retiree (State Police) but I was union, Troopers Lodge 41. I agree with you 100%. Excellent post.

  29. - RNUG - Monday, Nov 25, 13 @ 3:17 pm:

    I’ll be voting in a primary for the first time in 40 years …

  30. - the Patriot - Monday, Nov 25, 13 @ 3:29 pm:

    Rich, I am a bit disappointed you would play into the smoke and mirrors for the union heads on this one. They are just doing a dog and pony show.

    The unions will never endorse a republican in the general election. That means they can’t give too much help to one in the primary.

    This is IL and the unions will vote for a blind, three legged dog as long as it is a democrat.

    If you are union and you want to help, get a time machine and go back to force your unions to require the government to fund the pensions like they should have instead of bargaining for other things. You have had the most input in public officials than any other and frankly have no one to blame but yourselves. The IEA and AFSME gave Quinn 1.25 million last go round plus the boots to win.

    A few will cry on a blog or moan in public, but the union will still support the people who havee proven they either lack the skill or desire to fix the problem.

    I support the workers 100%, but until you vote for republicans across the board a couple times and remind those guys they have to earn your vote and it is not automatic, you will get nothing.

  31. - stancando - Monday, Nov 25, 13 @ 3:37 pm:

    I just posted a comment under stancando and forgot to fill in this info. Please adjust.

  32. - Anonymous - Monday, Nov 25, 13 @ 3:38 pm:

    Anyone who describes public employees and the unions that represent them as greedy is very misinformed and pathetically ignorant. Those who feel this way need to read and educate themselves about the issue.

  33. - Demoralized - Monday, Nov 25, 13 @ 3:39 pm:

    ==This is IL and the unions will vote for a blind, three legged dog as long as it is a democrat. ==

    Unions don’t vote. Their members do. And I think you will find they don’t vote as a single, united mass of people. The unions might give to Democrats, but that doesn’t mean their members necessarily vote that way en masse.

  34. - Think About It - Monday, Nov 25, 13 @ 3:41 pm:

    Unions should side with Dillard. I think they’ve learned that the public at large has gotten more knowledgeable over the years. They see how much of their tax money is going to support union workers and how it hurts their local governments. Dillard will bring some common sense, integrated solutions to the issue. Change can be good if properly and thoughtfully brought to the table for conversation.

  35. - RNUG - Monday, Nov 25, 13 @ 3:45 pm:

    the Patriot @ 3:29 pm:

    Learn the pension funding history first before you comment on things you don’t know about. The unions sued in 1975 and lost. See:

    60 Ill.2d 266 (1975)
    326 N.E.2d 749
    GEORGE W. LINDBERG, Comptroller, et al., Appellees. — AMERICAN ASSOCIATION OF UNIVERSITY PROFESSORS et al., Appellants,
    DANIEL WALKER, Governor, Appellee.
    Supreme Court of Illinois.
    Opinion filed March 24, 1975.

  36. - Seriously????!!!!! - Monday, Nov 25, 13 @ 3:45 pm:

    Praying labor forms their own “the truth about Rauner” advertising entity for the primary. God knows Rauner is not abut the truth!

  37. - Former Merit Comp Slave - Monday, Nov 25, 13 @ 6:14 pm:

    AFSCmE steward I like the way you think. I’m hearing more and more union members talking about republican choices. In the voting booth is what really counts. Dillard lost me however with his running mate who wants to severely cut our pensions. I just retired after just shy of 30 years state service. I’m voting in the primary and my well earned pension security will determine my vote.

  38. - Wordslinger - Monday, Nov 25, 13 @ 8:42 pm:

    downstaters, you’re engaged in some wishful thinking.

    Private sector unions can back public works projects without having antipathy to public unions.

    Plenty of private sector unions opposed Walker. — and he’s after them now.

    You’re right in one case, though. The big brains at the Operating Engineers who backed Daniels, then watched him sign a right-to-work law.


  39. - Arthur Andersen - Monday, Nov 25, 13 @ 10:11 pm:

    RNUG, Congrats. Welcome to my (former) world lol.

    I just can’t see the big public unions endorsing a Republican. More likely they make no endorsement. I believe IEA has done so in the past.

  40. - wordslinger - Monday, Nov 25, 13 @ 10:45 pm:

    I don’t see how the unions can’t answer publicly the beating Rauner is dishing out to them in all forums.

    For crying out loud, he’s putting all the ills of the state on them like they’re some sort of billionaire pay-to-play wheeler-dealers gaming the system at every turn for personal gain.

    If they let that stuff slide, they have no one to blame but themselves if people buy it. You have to answer and hit back hard.

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