Bruce Rauner’s unrelentingly dishonest attacks on public sector unions ran into some truth-telling on Tuesday night when the other Republican candidates all sought to differentiate themselves from Rauner’s misleading statements about the role of unions in public life.
For months, Rauner’s attacks on public employees have gone virtually uncontested. However, if the first GOP debate is any indication, they could become a huge liability for the billionaire front-runner.
All three of Rauner’s opponents in the March 18 primary – state Sens. Kirk Dillard and Bill Brady, and state Treasurer Dan Rutherford – defended the collective bargaining rights of public employees and said Rauner’s attacks were unfounded.
“We are a state that has a proud organized labor history,” said Dillard, who added that the best way to work with unions on keeping government spending under control was “to meet with them, to talk to them. It’s not to demonize them.”
Brady said unions help not only their members, but also the entire state.
“Unions serve their constituency, the people that they represent,” he said. “And certainly public and private sector unions have done a lot to assist in enhancing the quality of life of the members they provide for. They also provide for a skilled workforce.”
Rutherford defended public employees’ right to collective bargaining, adding “to suggest that public employee unions or their leadership are bosses and immoral is inappropriate.”
All three came to the defense of public employee unions after Rauner once again claimed that they have a “corrupting influence” because their members are paid with taxpayer dollars.
What Rauner calls “taxpayer funded union dues” come from the income that public employees earn through their work. Rauner refuses to recognize that once employees receive the wages that they’ve earned, the money belongs to them – not to the taxpayers. If public employees aren’t allowed to determine how they want to spend their own income because it originated with taxpayers, why shouldn’t private sector employees be prohibited from spending their income as they choose because it comes from consumers of the products they make or sell?
Both notions are equally ludicrous. Public employees work hard for their money and they have the right to determine how they will spend it, including the right to choose to belong to a union that will fight to advance their interests in the legislative and political arena.
AFSCME has not endorsed a candidate in the Republican primary for governor, but at the PEOPLE Legislative and Endorsement Conference on Feb. 1, delegates did vote to do everything possible to defeat Rauner. Delegates also empowered the PEOPLE Executive Committee to endorse a candidate in the Republican primary at a later date.