Rauner reform plan fails to gain Mundelein's support
Gov. Bruce Rauner's controversial plan to improve Illinois' poor financial outlook by attacking labor unions has failed to gain initial support in Mundelein.
Rather than voting to support what the new Republican governor has dubbed his turnaround agenda, trustees on Monday opted to delay a decision for at least two weeks. Additionally, officials said they may rework the resolution that was presented Monday.
Rauner, who took office this year, began presenting the proposal to editorial boards, municipal officials and other interests last week. It targets labor-union agreements and says local officials and voters should have more control over what can be included in such deals.
That was a big part of Rauner's campaign platform.
Rauner's plan would let voters or local governmental agencies determine if certain employment issues -- including wages, health insurance and personnel evaluations -- should be exempt from collective bargaining negotiations.
The Mundelein board is among the first in the suburbs to take up the issue. People packed the boardroom at village hall to hear the panel's discussion.
Many in the crowd spoke against the plan when given the opportunity, particularly a section about the minimum wages to be paid by government agencies.
Eventually, the board voted 4-1 to remove the resolution from the agenda. Trustee Holly Kim cast the lone "no" vote, while Trustee Ray Semple was absent.
In an interview Tuesday, Mayor Steve Lentz sounded uneasy with Rauner's plan.
"I agree with the bottom line resolution to support reforms that give us more local control and reduce the costs to local government," Lentz said. "Some of the clauses, however, are very polarizing."
Lentz agreed state governmental reform is needed, and he voiced support for greater local control of government-related costs.
But approving a resolution endorsing Rauner's plan will require a majority vote by the board, he said. That, Lentz said, is going to require further study and compromise.
And it's bound to anger some people.
"Clearly, the bargaining clauses are polarizing because they are perceived as threatening the very core power that unions have," he said. "If you are pro union, then this will generate quite a bit of opposition, as we saw last night."
Kim questioned the legality of Rauner's plan and the speed with which the board members were asked to support it.
"Why are we passing this in four days?" Kim said. "It's very heavy."
Kim also opposed Rauner's oft-spoken plan to allow voters to decide government employment issues at the ballot. Voter apathy and low turnout make such a concept problematic, she said.
"I don't believe that referendum should determine the topics of (labor) negotiation," she said.
If Rauner wants comprehensive reform of union-related laws, Kim said, it needs to happen at the state level.
"Putting it at the municipal level puts a municipality against another municipality," she said. "While I agree with some of the points of the (plan), I do not want independent municipalities to start becoming Springfield."
After the long discussion Monday, trustees Ed Sullivan and Robin Meier, both of whom are leaving office in May, were tapped to lead a committee that will examine and tweak Rauner's proposal before bringing it back to the full board for a vote.
Lentz said Sullivan, a conservative Republican and noted financial watchdog, was the trustee who pushed for the item to appear on Monday's agenda.
Like Rauner has done time and again, Sullivan insisted he's not trying to destroy labor unions.
"I believe workers should have the right to organized representation," Sullivan said Tuesday.
"I simple believe the field upon which bargaining takes place between workers and management needs to be more level, more equitable."
Sullivan admitted he doesn't expect all of Rauner's plan to succeed. Perhaps none of it will, he said, "unless the people of Illinois and their elected officials begin to speak up."
Despite his reservations about Rauner's plan, Lentz strongly believes politicians must act to improve Illinois' economy and employment picture.
"Our state is bleeding jobs and people to other states," he said. "The status quo is not acceptable."
Other government agencies are considering similar resolutions. Last week, Rauner met with Kane County officials and asked that board to endorse his plan.