SPRINGFIELD — Illinois AFL-CIO President Michael Carrigan stood with Gov. Pat Quinn at the State Fair on Wednesday to try to send a clear message that all of organized labor stands behind the Democrat’s re-election.
Given that just two years ago union members booed Quinn off this very same stage over pension reform, you get a measure of labor’s fear and loathing of Republican nominee Bruce Rauner, who in his primary campaign railed against “union bosses.”
While Rauner has since toned down that rhetoric and tried to emphasize that his fight is only with public employee unions, Carrigan said the unions are not fooled by Rauner trying to have it both ways.
“Bruce Rauner is the problem, not the solution,” Carrigan told a group of Democratic loyalists who booed and hissed at the mention of Rauner’s name.
Although unions are traditionally the Democratic Party’s main support group, many centrist Illinois Republicans have garnered labor backing through the years, former governors Jim Thompson and George Ryan to name just two.
But Rauner is not that type of politician and has not built any bridges to organized labor in his still budding political career, although he often talks on the campaign stump about his “union friends.”
Based on early poll results showing Rauner leading Quinn, it would seem some rank-and-file union members are indeed persuaded Rauner is the better candidate to bring the changes they seek.
But Carrigan said the unions will be spreading the word to their members, family members, friends and allies that Rauner’s version of change won’t be good for them.
The former journeyman electrician from Decatur called it “the same old trickle down economic theories that conservative Republicans for decades have tried to champion, and we all know this doesn’t work.”
Carrigan put a finer edge on some of the Democratic talking points the Quinn campaign has developed in recent weeks.
“[Rauner] made his fortune putting profits ahead of people,” Carrigan said.