Doubek: Rep. Drury voted against pro-labor bill for labor’s sake

SHARE Doubek: Rep. Drury voted against pro-labor bill for labor’s sake
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Illinois State Rep. Scott Drury is a former federal prosecutor.

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For the second time in a high-stakes vote, Democratic state Rep. Scott Drury defied the wishes of House Speaker Michael Madigan, choosing to vote against an override of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of labor legislation, Senate Bill 1229.

What’s more, Drury says, his vote was pro-labor.

Yes, pro-labor. In fact, he suggests, he just might be the only legislator to vote pro-labor on the arbitration plan sought by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31, which would sacrifice the union’s right to strike and stop the governor from locking out state workers.

What? How can a vote not to override Republican Rauner and opposite that of 68 fellow Democrats be pro-labor?

OPINION

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“I cast my vote in order to stand up for labor’s right to strike,” Drury said in an interview after Wednesday’s vote. Agreeing to forgo the right to strike is “bad precedent and it’s bad policy long term.”

Drury, of suburban Highwood on the North Shore, previously was the first Democrat to announce he opposed Madigan’s millionaire tax, effectively killing its chances for passage last year. (He was joined then by Democratic state Rep. Jack Franks of Marengo, who voted “present” on the labor bill.)

This year, Drury voted for the labor-backed legislation initially, but dug into the topic as the rhetoric intensified, researching it like the former assistant federal prosecutor he is. Drury said he consulted with expert labor law professors at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cornell University and the University of Illinois.

First, he said he learned that Rauner’s claims that arbitration results in higher wages were false. Since the 1970s, nonpartisan academic research shows wages achieved through arbitration and those resulting from collective bargaining are about the same.

Arbitration is a process used in states where unions do not have the right to strike, the professors told Drury.

And so, while his constituents were getting Rauner-backed robocalls suggesting he was about to vote with unions and prompt a massive tax increase, and while he was getting calls pressuring him to side with labor, Drury said he kept asking questions of the governor’s staff and of union members.

At one point, he said, he asked a teachers’ union member if they would sacrifice their right to strike if the proposal were amended and teachers were included in it and the answer back was a swift, “Absolutely not.”

One of the professors told him he was unaware of any other instance in the country where a union gave up its right to strike. Of course, AFSCME’s bill would have expired as Rauner’s term ends, but lawyer Drury said the precedent could last.

Citing pension holidays, he noted, “We have a history of doing expedient things with horrible, unintended consequences. It sets in motion something where we don’t know where the end of the line is.”

Drury said he frequently changed his mind and did not resolve to vote against the override until hours before he pushed his button. But he said he was confident in his choice and “confident that no one researched this more than I did.”

If that makes Drury sound to you like a know-it-all, arrogant prosecutor, well, you’re wrong, he says.

“I don’t think it’s arrogance at all,” he says. “All I did was talk to people who I think know more than me, like any lawyer would.”

Well, not any lawyer. The Illinois General Assembly is full of lawyers. One of them is Mike Madigan.

And while Madigan told reporters state Rep. Ken Dunkin of Chicago’s unexcused absence was to blame for the bill’s failure because it gave other Democrats an excuse to peel off the union plan, Drury tells a different story.

He might have told a House Democratic staffer he still was doing his research, but Drury said he never indicated how he’d vote and never talked to the Speaker about how he might vote. Known as a master tactician, Madigan and his staff did not know how Drury would vote?

It’s hard to fathom.

So Drury cast what he sees as his pro-labor vote and secured a victory for Rauner and a loss for Madigan.

Or was it a victory for labor and a victory for Madigan, who will use lawmakers’ votes for election gain?

Drury hopes maybe a few people will recognize a different kind of win. “I just want to separate facts from fiction and politics from policy,” he said.

Madeleine Doubek is chief operating officer of Reboot Illinois.

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