Rauner targets unions in Lake County speech in Mundelein
His speech was officially about empowering the people of Illinois, but Gov. Bruce Rauner repeatedly targeted labor unions and the political power they wield during a brief appearance in Lake County on Monday.
Controlling the ability of teachers and other workers to unionize and bargain as a unit is the way to control government spending in Illinois, Rauner said during a Mundelein Vernon Hills Rotary Club luncheon at Dover Straits restaurant in Mundelein.
"You can decide if your teachers don't necessarily have to be forced to join a union to work in (your local school)," Rauner said.
Likewise, people should be able to decide what employment matters can be determined by union negotiations, he said.
"You should control those issues," Rauner said.
When asked for a response later in the day, Illinois Federation of Teachers President Dan Montgomery lashed out at the governor.
"All this talk about empowerment and choice is baloney," Montgomery said. "No one is forced to join a union, so let's call this what it is: a right-wing political attack on the unions who give teachers, first responders, nurses, and other workers a collective voice."
The 15-minute speech was Rauner's first in Lake County since taking office in January. At the start of his remarks, he spoke of growing up in Deerfield.
But his speech wasn't about his links to the North suburbs. It was about high property taxes and government waste and, yes, unions.
Rauner said he doesn't advocate turning Illinois into a right-to-work state that prohibits mandatory union membership at a workplace, something Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has endorsed.
Rather, Rauner said, "you should be able to decide."
Rauner also suggested freezing property taxes is a way to control government spending. They should only be able to increase, the Republican governor said, with voter approval.
Lake County Board Chairman Aaron Lawlor was among the politicians in the audience Monday. He said Rauner's tax-freeze idea is part of "an important discussion."
"It's clear that in the long term, property taxes are unsustainable for homeowners," Lawlor said. "And the question is, how do we address that unsustainability?"
Rauner posed for photographs with club members but refused to answer questions from reporters after the speech.
"No gaggling," he told the Daily Herald.
When one reporter asked him about his political agenda while he was buying a Rotary raffle ticket, he asked her if she planned to purchase a ticket and ignored her questions.
Rauner was scheduled to make stops in Chicago and downstate Pontiac on Monday, too.
Daily Herald Political Editor Mike Riopell contributed to this report.