Gov. Pat Quinn scooped up the endorsement of the Service Employees International Union on Monday, despite the fact that the two have been on uneasy ground in recent months over the governor’s support of a public pension reform bill.
Gathered at the SEIU headquarters in the Bridgeport neighborhood, Quinn nodded in agreement as a handful of rank-and-file union members took turns singing his praise.
“It’s the meal ticket to the middle-class,” Quinn told the gathering of reporters, referring workers’ ability to unionize. “If we’re going to have a middle-class in the state and this country, we got to make sure people get a fair shake.”
Left unaddressed was the fact that SEIU Local 73 joined several other major unions in January, suing Quinn and other elected officials over the pension law, which they say unconstitutionally reduces public workers benefits.
Instead, the Democratic governor and members of the Illinois State Council of the SEIU took every opportunity to contrast Quinn with wealthy Republican rival Bruce Rauner – who they characterized as a plutocrat, intent on sticking it to everyday workers.
Quinn once again compared Rauner to The Simpsons’ blue-blooded character, C. Montgomery Burns.
The governor sidestepped questions about Fox Broadcasting blocking access to Quinn’s online ad featuring the character, citing copyright infringement.
“I’m a big fan of The Simpsons. In fact, Mr. Burns … himself ran for governor on a platform of eliminating environmental regulations and getting rid of worker protections,” Quinn said. “Fortunately, he lost that election.”
Throughout his campaign, Rauner has attacked “union bosses” who he claims have bought the influence of majority Democrats in Springfield. When asked why none of those “union bosses” were present at his SEIU endorsement, Quinn also ducked that question.
“The union are the members,” Quinn offered before leading the rank-and-file who flanked him at the podium on a chant that drowned out further inquiry. Later, he offered: “I don’t happen to know what their [the union bosses] mission is today … The members are the bosses.”
Rauner campaign spokesman Mike Schrimpf said he was hardly surprised by the SEIU endorsement of Quinn.
“Springfield special interests lining up to endorse Pat Quinn is just more of the same,” Schrimpf said. “Unfortunately for the working people of Illinois, the status quo under Quinn means fewer jobs, lower incomes and more poverty.”
When asked what the campaign makes of Quinn comparing Rauner to an entitled Simpsons’ character, Schrimpf said he doesn’t “make a whole lot of it.”
“It’s a typical way to try to distract from Pat Quinn’s failed record,” Schrimpf said.