Holding out hope that Illinois is finally cracking down on public sector unions may be misguided They may be just giving the union members in GOP areas of the state a hard time. See this report:
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It was the latest installment of the ongoing feud between state Democratic leaders and the largest union representing state workers, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME.
On the face of things, the situation would appear to be a head-scratcher.
After all, Democrats control the House, Senate and the governor’s office. And the Democratic Party has a tight bond with organized labor. AFSCME has a long history of giving generously to Democratic candidates.
But that doesn’t tell the whole story.
Some in Democratic leadership have considered AFSCME a Republican union noting that many major state facilities are in Republican-leaning downstate communities.
Much of this is because former governors James Thompson, Jim Edgar and George Ryan – all Republicans – had final say on two things during the 24 years they were at the helm of state government: where new prisons would be built and which aging state mental hospitals would be closed.
Not surprisingly, Republican-leaning areas tended to fare better during this process, leaving a higher concentration of state workers employed in GOP strongholds.
Years ago, former AFSCME spokesman Marianne McMullen shared with me the struggle the union had to get its downstate members to vote for former Gov. Rod Blagojevich because of concerns about his past positions on gun control and other social issues.
But House Deputy Majority Leader Frank Mautino, D-Spring Valley, told me Wednesday he believes the issue is more about geography than political affiliation.
“I’m a downstate Democrat who has plenty of state workers in my district,” he said. “But if you are a Chicago Democrat you probably don’t know that many. They are more likely to know large numbers of [Cook] county employees.”