Bruce Rauner’s campaign for governor of Illinois hit a rough spot when it was revealed that he was talking about lowering the minimum wage.
That’s right, lowering.
At a December, 2013, Republican campaign forum, the wealthy candidate declared, “I will advocate moving the Illinois minimum wage back to the national minimum wage. I think we’ve got to be competitive here in Illinois. It’s critical we’re competitive. We’re hurting our economy by having the minimum wage above the national. We’ve got to move back to the national.”
Practically, what that would have meant was cutting the state’s 8.25-per-hour wage guarantee down to the federal rate of $7.25-per-hour.
Politically, what that meant was trouble because, as the Chicago Tribune noted, the statement “had threatened to upend a carefully crafted campaign aimed at convincing Republican primary voters and independents that the man who is potentially the wealthiest candidate ever to run for public office in the state was a regular guy.”
So Rauner backtracked, declaring that he was being “flippant” and that he was actually interested in increasing wages. (Never mind that tape of the radio interview in which the candidate was quoted as explaining that “I have said, on a number of occasions, that we could have a lower minimum wage or no minimum wage.”)
The flip-flop worked. Rauner was elected governor last November.
He still avoids the minimum-wage trap, even going so far as to suggest now that he wants to hike the rate—though he is currently objecting to moves by the Illinois state Senate to do just that.
But Rauner remains an ardent advocate for positions that are all but certain to reduce wages.
Last week, Rauner was talking up the idea of letting Illinois cities and counties reject the state’s labor laws and implement local “right-to-work zones,” where new rules could make it harder for unions to organize and effectively bargain for pay and benefit hikes.
This week, Rauner has moved unilaterally to overturn long-established models for collecting dues from state workers who are represented by public-employee unions. The governor claims that asking workers to pay their fair share for union representation violates the US Constitution.
In fact, Rauner’s the one who is operating outside the law, says American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch, who calls the governor’s executive order “a blatantly illegal abuse of power.”