chicago—Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner has declared war on workers and their unions—and, by extension, on fair wages and the prospects for economic advancement in his state. The newly elected executive is proposing “right-to-work” (for less) experiments that would undermine private-sector unions while he bullies state officials to help him weaken public-sector unions.
This is the new normal for Republican governors in much of the Midwest. In addition to Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s ongoing assaults on collective bargaining rights, Republican governors in Michigan and Indiana have pushed through right-to-work schemes that are designed to make it harder for unions to organize, build strength and bargain on behalf of family-supporting wages. Ohio Governor John Kasich and his legislative tried to implement a Walker-style assault on public-sector unions in his state, but the voters rejected his proposal in a referendum made possible by a provision that allows that state’s citizens to overturn unpopular and unnecessary legislation.
Rauner makes no secret of the fact that he would like to be the Scott Walker of Illinois.
Rauner critics such as Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis refer to the newly elected governor as “Walker on steroids,” while veteran Chicago political consultant and commentator Don Rose has described the Illinois Republican as “horrifically and historically anti-union.” Rauner gave rise to those assessments during a free-spending 2014 gubernatorial campaign in which he floated (and then abandoned) the idea of reducing or even eliminating the minimum wage, blamed public-sector unions and their members for the state’s fiscal woes and hailed Walker—who is now preparing a labor-bashing bid for the 2016 Republican presidential nod—as a role model.
But what if Rauner isn’t a Walker? What if Rauner’s a Kasich?
What if the Illinoisan gets tripped up by the voters—or, to be more precise, by the fear even among his fellow Republicans that voters do not approve of union bashing?