Ahead of his State of the State address, Gov. Bruce Rauner is ramping up his anti-union rhetoric.
The governor sent a memo to state lawmakers on Monday, calling on them to review federal rules that prevent U.S. government employees from striking and bargaining over wages and benefits, among other regulations. His memo included a slide with a summary of the federal rules relating to U.S. government employees.
In his note, Rauner says, "The rules were codified in 1978 under President Jimmy Carter and a Democratic Congress."
"The pension system changes were enacted under President Ronald Reagan in conjunction with a bipartisan legislature," the memo adds. "We too can achieve common-sense bipartisan reforms to our employment rules that are fair to both state workers and taxpayers."
A second slide in the memo compared the "average Illinois government salary" to the "average Illinois working family salary." It also compared average salaries of state workers with the average salary among five neighboring states for the same occupations.
"These levels are unsustainable and unfair to working families, small businesses and other taxpayers in Illinois," the memo says. "They limit our ability to grow our economy and to fund much needed social services. We do not intend to propose government salary reductions, but it is critical that we make structural reforms that prevent any future imbalances and unfair practices. It is also abundantly clear that we must make major reforms to eliminate conflicts of interest and to achieve dramatic economic growth in order to properly fund the operations of our state government."
AFSCME Council 31 spokesman Anders Lindall told the Chicago Sun-Times that, "It's bizarre and outrageous for Bruce Rauner to suggest that public employees aren't 'working families.'"
"He's wrong to vilify workers who serve the public, earn middle-class wages and have a right to a voice through their union," Lindall said, adding that, "Every working person, whether in the public or the private sector, has a right to a voice at work and should be free to bargain for middle-class wages, affordable health care and a secure retirement."
Check back with Progress Illinois for full coverage of Rauner's State of the State address, which takes place Wednesday at noon.