When it comes to their views on organized labor and education, you couldn’t find a more stark philosophical divide than there is between Jesus “Chuy” Garcia and Gov. Bruce Rauner.
Despite a massive budget mess from both this fiscal year and the next with which he must contend, Rauner has been on a statewide tour talking about . . . unions.
He’s pushing ideas that labor groups say undermine the strength of their organizations — that includes bringing local right-to-work zones to the state and ridding the so-called “fair-share” fees nonunion members pay to cover collective-bargaining costs.
“I think Rauner has a pathological hatred for organized labor,” says Charles N. Wheeler III, director of the Public Affairs Reporting Program at the University of Illinois at Springfield.
Rauner has repeatedly said he doesn’t hate unions but wants to reverse the power that union “bosses” wield in Illinois.
Still, taken in that light, wouldn’t a Mayor Garcia be Rauner’s worst nightmare?
Garcia’s candidacy is backed primarily by labor groups — the Chicago Teachers Union, SEIU Health Care and SEIU State Council have made up the bulk of campaign contributors for his mayoral bid.
Rauner wants to expand privately run charter schools, while Garcia is dead against it.
Meanwhile, Mayor Rahm Emanuel has had the backing of trade unions, but, like Rauner, he’s done battle with groups like SEIU, and, like Rauner, he supports charter schools.
Also like Rauner, the bulk of Emanuel’s campaign contributors come from a core group of wealthy individuals, including billionaire Ken Griffin, founder of the Citadel investment firm.
But Rauner supporter and Republican strategist Pat Brady see it differently, saying that if Garcia were mayor, it could end up benefitting Rauner politically.
Brady said a Rauner-Garcia situation would offer a clear choice: “a big government, labor-centric state, or what Rauner is talking about, growing the economy.
“I do think it would ultimately strengthen his hand,” Brady said. “It’s going to be a clear choice on how to run the state. Chuy is going to be very much under the thumb of public-sector labor. You gotta remember, for the city and state to succeed, Chicago has to succeed.”
Brady added that what Garcia says while campaigning and the way he actually might govern could well be different.
Officially, Rauner isn’t backing either candidate.
“The governor is staying out of the mayor’s race, as he’s said multiple times,” Rauner spokesman Lance Trover said Friday.
Kent Redfield, political science professor emeritus at U. of I. at Springfield, said it’s tough to imagine that Rauner wouldn’t want Emanuel to win.
“It’s hard to see much common ground in terms of Garcia on the policy issues, on education particularly and also on public employee bargaining,” Redfield said. “I think certainly, given the crossover in the people financing Emanuel and the people financing Rauner, I think there certainly is an expectation on Rauner’s part that he and Emanuel can do business in a way that benefits both of them.”
Wheeler, though, isn’t convinced Rauner can work with either Emanuel or Garcia.
“I have not seen evidence that Bruce Rauner can work with anyone,” Wheeler said. “The budget proposal he unveiled screws Chicago big time. . . . It really exacerbates a real bad budget problem in the city. Obviously, Rauner didn’t give much consideration that, ‘I’m Emanuel’s friend.’ ”
Emanuel’s camp has worked to distance the mayor from Rauner, since the governor proposed a budget that severely slashes human services and money that flows to the city of Chicago. They’ve also argued that Emanuel can stand up to Rauner, that his prickly personality is what’s needed to counter the governor’s policies.
“We hear various versions of that argument all the time that somehow the mayor’s connections will benefit the city or that the mayor’s aggressive personality will benefit the city,” said Andrew Sharp, Garcia’s campaign manager. “I think he’d be hard-pressed to show where his personality actually benefitted him. We have plenty of examples, including the first teachers strike in 25 years.”
Sharp then points back to the photo of Emanuel and Rauner walking together in Montana, laughing and holding a pricey bottle of wine. Rauner later admitted that he and his wife belonged to a wine club that cost upward of $100,000 to join.
“That picture’s worth a thousand words,” Sharp said.