Gov. Bruce Rauner's controversial effort to convince local governments to back his reform agenda is getting only a so-so response in the suburbs as union supporters flood meeting rooms to oppose the plan they say will limit workers' rights.
Naperville on Tuesday became the largest city in Illinois to take a pass on approving Rauner's so-called turnaround agenda of measures that would weaken the power of unions in an attempt to cut government costs.
"This isn't our place to be voting on state issues," Naperville City Council member Paul Hinterlong, who works as a business agent for Plumbers Local 130, said before the panel tabled the proposal.
Hinterlong is not the only municipal leader to say Rauner's plan is asking local governments to meddle in state issues beyond their control.
Leaders in Libertyville, Mundelein and Wauconda also have shown no support for Rauner's plan, while Kane County has delayed further discussion. Aurora Township, Campton Hills, Vernon Hills and Pingree Grove also have tabled the proposal or voted it down.
The governor has asked municipalities to approve a pre-written resolution that suggests several measures for improving the state's finances. Among them are allowing voters to decide whether workers should be forced to join a union, removing pay requirements for municipal construction work, letting voters have more control over topics that can be negotiated in union contracts, rolling back unfunded mandates, changing workers' compensation and reforming pensions.
East Dundee, McHenry County, Round Lake Beach, Rockford, Third Lake and Wayne are among 27 communities across the state that have approved Rauner's agenda.
"The governor is encouraged that communities across the state from Round Lake Beach to McHenry County to Rockford to Effingham County are embracing the turnaround agenda," Rauner's office said in a statement Wednesday. "The turnaround agenda resolution is a way for communities to show they embrace the governor's plan for more voter empowerment and local control."
East Dundee Village President Lael Miller, however, says the village's unanimous support of the agenda is not an endorsement of one of its most controversial elements -- so-called empowerment zones or right-to-work zones that could be created if municipalities were allowed to decide whether workers must join a union to be employed. Proponents of the governor's plan say the zones will help attract jobs, but union leaders denounce them as "right-to-work-for-less" zones.
"What (the resolution) says is that we'd like to start a larger conversation with the governor," Miller said. "We realize that Illinois has a severe fiscal crisis. We know that things have to change. This is a starting point."
But union members who are turning out in force to government meetings say anti-union measures are not a productive way to start.
"When isolated and measured against any other job creation variables, right-to-work has no proven record of stimulating meaningful economic growth," Frank Furco, secretary/treasurer of the DuPage County Building and Construction Trade Council, told the Naperville City Council, quoting a 2013 study from the School of Labor and Employment Relations at the University of Illinois.
"If we don't stop anti-work schemes like the right-to-work (zones), more Naperville families will fall behind," Furco said to applause from a packed house of more than 400 people.
Anders Lindall, spokesman for American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31, said the "outpouring of opposition" to Rauner's turnaround plan proves the agenda is "needlessly divisive and an extreme attack on not only the rights of working people to have a voice on the job but also the ability of all working people to join and remain in the middle class."
Naperville's tabled resolution did not include support for letting voters decide if union membership should be required, and it also removed another portion dealing with whether voters or local governments should decide if topics such as wages and health insurance should be excluded from union bargaining.
In Buffalo Grove, officials approved a resolution that opposes unfunded mandates and asks the state not to freeze property taxes or cut the amount of tax revenue it gives back to municipalities. But it was a far cry from what Rauner suggested.
"I didn't feel it was appropriate for us to do deal with those types of union issues," Village President Jeffrey Braiman said.
Even in the 27 communities that have supported Rauner's agenda, each resolution at the local level is nonbinding. No changes in union rights, contractor pay or bargaining will be made unless the state legislature takes action.
The new governor sent his turnaround proposal to cities and villages across the state last month to build support for his plans to change union rules and make state laws more friendly to businesses.
How local leaders ultimately respond could make a difference in Springfield because state lawmakers stay in close contact with the areas they represent.
This likely isn't the end of local-level discussions on Rauner's turnaround agenda. Two weeks after postponing a vote on a resolution that would support Rauner's plan, Mundelein officials on Wednesday announced they're dropping the issue, but Batavia plans to discuss it Tuesday, as does Kane County, which may draft its own resolution separate from Rauner's suggested text.
• Daily Herald Political Editor Mike Riopell and staff writers Madhu Krishnamurthy, Russell Lissau, James Fuller and Steve Zalusky contributed to this report.