Melanie Hindrich is married to a correctional officer at Menard prison in southern Illinois. Recently she posted a photo of her husband and their four young children on Facebook, asking this simple question:
“Governor Rauner, please tell me how you can look into these children’s eyes and tell them that their father—who puts on a uniform and goes into a maximum-security prison five days a week, putting his life on the line—does not deserve what he is paid.”
The sad truth is that Bruce Rauner’s actions suggest he can’t be shamed.
After all, in his first year as Illinois governor, Rauner took home $188 million in personal income. That equates to $90,000 an hour—more than most state employees earn in an entire year. But that isn’t stopping Rauner from trying to slash the income of public service workers who rescue abused children, aid needy families, keep criminals off the streets, respond to natural disasters, care for the elderly and disabled, and much more.
Nor has it stopped him from trying to portray those workers as greedy and grasping—making the false claim that they’re demanding a contract that would cost the state an additional $3 billion. In fact, their proposals don’t come close to that cost.
Even more tellingly, Rauner continues to complain loudly about the union’s proposals—though he refuses to meet with the union’s bargaining committee, which has made very clear it’s prepared to modify those proposals.
In other words, the governor is attacking union members for wanting too much, but he won’t meet with the union to allow them to propose less! Talk about a Catch-22 situation.
Meanwhile, Rauner vilifies public employees as underworked and overpaid—despite the fact that he’s never worked a day in a prison, veterans home or psychiatric hospital. Anyone who has would never say state employees are anything but hard-working.
As for overpaid, Rauner is a billionaire who owns nine mansions nationwide. Yet he thinks an average yearly wage of $60,000 is too much for state employees who provide important public services, often have college or graduate degrees and professional certification, and still struggle to pay the bills and save for the future.
Rauner remains determined to make that struggle harder by freezing pay and drastically hiking costs for health care. If he succeeds, then even as the cost of living goes up, state employees would see their income go down by thousands of dollars every year.
In this, Rauner ranks among the new American oligarchy that’s determined to undo the decades of progress our nation has made in creating a middle class. This elite fears all forms of democratic participation—hence their intense hatred of unions, which are the essence of workplace democracy.
Here’s the harsh reality: Illinois has a governor who’s determined to drive down the wages and strip the rights of all working people—and he’s prepared to spend millions of dollars of his own vast wealth in service of that “cause.”
He’s held up a state budget for more than a year now, forcing human-service agencies to close their doors, cutting off help for the homeless, autistic kids, victims of domestic violence, needy students and so many more. They’re only collateral damage in his obsessive effort to decimate unions.
That’s why the battle that state employees are fighting right now is so vital to every working person in Illinois. More than seeking to drive down state workers’ incomes and silence their voices, Bruce Rauner wants to exercise total control over their working lives. If he achieves that goal, he wants to bring the same authoritarian ethos to every workplace in the state.
It’s critical that everyone support state employees as they stand for justice and dignity for us all.