As union members statewide gathered to protest Illinois Governor Pat Quinn's decision to deny raises to public employees, the Democratic Governor's Association was reporting record breaking fundraising totals--which Quinn himself helped rake in.
As the Capitol Fax Blog reported Wednesday, the DGA announced that Quinn would be their new finance chairman in March--in the midst of the intense labor protests in Wisconsin. As Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio's new, Republican governors announced plans to diminish the power of organized labor, the Illinois Democrat seemed to be the progressive voice of the Midwest.
But pressure to get the Illinois budget under control ended up souring Quinn's relationship with some of the state's largest organized labor groups. He froze the pay of about 500 public employees after not being able to negotiate a balanced budget in Springfield this spring.
"(Quinn) wants to attack those people who make the state operate every day instead of having a discussion of the state budget during the spring legislative session," Local President Randy Milligan told the Daily Register of Harrisburg.
Despite the union criticism, Quinn was able to help the DGA rake in about $11 million in the first six months of the year. Though Republicans doubled that amount, it is a record for the association. His success may be overshadowed by his recent union battle, however. The President of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which organized pickets statewide over Quinn's cuts, publicly questioned his ability to fundraise for the DGA following his alleged violation of a collective bargaining agreement.
Capitol Fax quotes a recent AFL-CIO newsletter:
Governor Quinn has recently taken a more active leadership role in the National Democratic Governors’ Association, particularly in fundraising efforts. He has, as recently as April 2011, chided Republican Governors for stripping public employees’ collective bargaining rights around the country. Behind the scenes, national labor leaders, including National AFL-CIO President Trumka, called Governor Quinn to request further negotiations on this issue. Quinn continued to pursue SB 1556 despite the calls. It remains unclear whether Governor Quinn will be an effective fundraiser for the Democratic Governors’ Association following his pursuit of this anti-worker legislation.
Quinn claims the public employee cuts will save the state $75 million, but union members told the Courthouse News Service he had other options:
...unions say other budget-saving measures could have been taken, including using hundreds of millions of dollars in unexpended appropriations, slowing the procedure for filling vacant positions, or imposing a freeze on filling vacant positions and transferring funds for personal services.
So far, the Illinois Federation of Public Employees Local 4408, the Illinois Federation of Teachers Local 919 and the AFL-CIO filed lawsuits in federal court over the cuts, claiming that Quinn violated the U.S. Constitution's equal protection clause and the state's Public Labor Relations Act, according to the State-Journal Register.
"He should have went to the union first and talked to them and to say, 'Well, times are hard and we're having trouble, what can we do? Can we move (delay) these raises again," public employee Cathy Matzen told SJ-R. "I think the biggest issue is giving them to some people and not others."
No word yet on whether Quinn's union woes will impact his position with the DGA.