Attacks on the Middle Class are Not Solutions

by Amy Excell | Feb 03, 2015
The media and researchers agree that Rauner's anti-union proposals would not be an economic fix for Illinois.

Upon taking office last month, one of the first things Governor Bruce Rauner said was that Illinois’ financial condition was worse than he thought. But rather than putting forth solutions to address that presumably top priority, the Governor has been touring the state, leveling ideological attacks on working families and the unions that represent them.

Is anyone surprised?

Statehouse reporter and Crain's contributor Rich Miller called the Governor out for wasting time on a bad idea.

The goal here is to use right-to-work laws to bankrupt the unions. And that means far fewer dollars spent lobbying for pesky minimum-wage hikes, workplace safety and anti-discrimination laws. Not to mention fewer dollars to pro-union candidates. The intended result of all this is lower pay for all workers.


The Southern Illinoisan also criticized Rauner’s so-called "right-to-work" proposal for taking away workers’ rights.

When he visited the Southern Illinoisan editorial board during his campaign, he said he was not anti-union and supported collective bargaining. Rauner’s rhetoric this week attacked unions, blaming them for the state of the Illinois economy. Rauner now claims that creating right to work zones…would create 61,000 new jobs.

We aren’t sure where that number is coming from. Perhaps he’s calculating the number of jobs that would be created by paying workers lower wages than those negotiated by the unions. Perhaps by paying employees less, Rauner believes employers will create more positions. Or perhaps he is counting the new jobs companies will bring when they move to the state knowing there are pockets where they don’t have to bargain for wages, where workers don’t have rights and where they can let people go without cause.

And the editorial board of the State Journal-Register said Rauner should focus on working with unions to tackle Illinois’ challenges.

Rauner’s focus should be on bringing together the groups that have a role in fixing Illinois' severe fiscal problems, including unions, rather than creating unnecessary divisions. Mutual respect is a must if Rauner intends to achieve his goals.

We agree.

These reporters and editorial boards are basing their opinions on sound research which shows that “right-to-work” (for less) schemes do not create economic prosperity. On the contrary, according to a recent University of Illinois study, “…Right To Work (RTW) seriously erodes wages and benefits and compounds racial and gender wage inequality. Right To Work will drop wages in Illinois between 5.7 to 7.3 percent.”

Other key findings of this study include:

  • RTW lowers worker earnings.
  • The evidence is inconclusive on RTW’s employment effect.
  • RTW reduces union membership.
  • RTW increases gender and racial wage inequality.
  • RTW reduces employee benefits and increase workplaces fatalities.
  • Adopting a RTW law would have negative impacts on the Illinois economy and budget.
 

While inconvenient to the Governor’s argument, this is not economic development.

Read the entire report here, and look at this IFT fact sheet for more details about why “right-to-work" is wrong for Illinois.

Unfortunately, Governor Rauner didn’t stop at “right-to-work,” and while he didn’t provide many details, there was no shortage of hypocrisy.

While claiming that public employees are overpaid, Rauner bumped salaries for his own top staff:

While criticizing state spending and state worker salaries as too high, Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner is paying top members of his administration significantly more than their predecessors in Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn's administration, a review by The Associated Press has found.


And after contributing and collecting hundreds of millions in contributions from wealthy individuals and corporations (some of whom now have jobs with or do business with the state), Rauner said everyday, working families who donate to lawmakers through their unions have a “conflict of interest.” Now that’s rich.

Then, just yesterday, the Governor put forth a proposal to limit workers’ rights to collectively bargain or strike.

Attacking the middle class and demonizing unions will not produce prosperity. If the Governor is serious about growing the state economy, he needs to offer actual solutions – not misleading, trickle-down experiments that have failed time and time again.

As Miller continued:

Instead, he should focus on some concrete, doable things…In other words, ditch the right-winger rhetoric and do something real.

Rauner is expected to promote his plan during the State of the State address tomorrow. Visit ift-aft.org for updates after the Governor’s speech.