Newly elected Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner made union-busting one of his campaign themes in last year’s election.


“We may have to go through rough times,” Rauner told attendees at a March 2013 dinner meeting of the Tazewell County Republicans. “We may have to do what Ronald Reagan did with the air traffic controllers. Sort of have to do a do-over and shut things down for a little while. That’s what we’re going to do.”

Now he’s putting his words into practice.

Last week, Rauner issued an executive order that exempts public workers from having to pay “fair share” fees. In Illinois, state workers are not required to join a labor union, but they are required to pay fees related to collective bargaining.

Union activists throughout the state say this move is nothing but an effort to undermine the labor movement.

Rauner claims the move will save taxpayers money, but AFSCME Local 31 leader Roberta Lynch disagrees, telling the Chicago Tribune that it’s a “paper-thin excuse that can’t hide his real agenda: silencing working people and their union who stand up for the middle class.”

This move would not only affect teachers, sanitation workers and safety personal, but IBEW electricians as well, who maintain government buildings and medical facilities throughout the state.

Rauner is also pushing for a ban on campaign contributions from unions and for municipalities to enact local “right-to-work-for-less” laws.

“It’s no different from what Scott Walker in Wisconsin or other anti-labor governors are doing,” said IBEW Illinois Political Coordinator Paul Noble.

The Supreme Court ruled last year that publically funded home care workers in Illinois were not required to pay maintenance of contract fees. Court justices did not extend this to state workers, however.

“It’s apparent that Gov. Rauner plans to govern like the ultra-wealthy CEO he is – by taking care of the few at the expense of the many,” said Illinois AFL-CIO President Michael Carrigan, who is also a member of Decatur Local 164. “While he points to the salaries of those cooking the food in the cafeterias, guarding the prisoners and plowing the snow and ice as the culprits in our state’s financial woes, he is silent on the hundreds of tax breaks granted to large businesses.”

And it’s not just the labor movement that’s criticizing Rauner’s radical move. Chicago Sun-Times columnist Mark Brown wrote:

I’m wondering what other secret plans Rauner has up his sleeve. I’m reminded of other speeches where he talked about spoiling for a possible strike from state workers — and replacing them a la Ronald Reagan and the air traffic controllers.

If private-sector union members are thinking this is the public employee unions’ problem, then they are going to be in for a rude awakening. The same goes for nonunion workers who think this is a union problem.