Speakers during the citizen comment portion of the May 4 Rules Committee meeting called Governor Bruce Rauner’s “turnaround agenda” many things, none of them positive. The Illinois Turnaround, which the governor presented to Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl at the April Evanston Lobby Day in Springfield, has been termed “right to work” by its advocates and “anti-union” by opponents. The governor has asked each municipality to adopt it.

Among other things, the Illinois Turnaround proposes the following: tying a minimum-wage increase to reforms in workers’ compensation, unemployment insurance, certain types of lawsuits and the creation of empowerment zones, in which employees would be able to, but not forced to, join a union.

Mayor Tisdahl said she told the governor she would put the matter before the City Council, and a resolution adopting his proposal was on the agenda of the Rule Committee’s May 4 meeting. The Rules Committee is composed of all 10 members of City Council – the nine aldermen and the Mayor.

Most of the speakers represented unions, and they spoke of unions as guardians and guarantors of the middle class. Ken Edwards of an engineers union said, “We feel the turnaround agenda is pure politics, and politics belongs in Springfield.”

Bridget Early of the Chicago Federation of Labor said the turnaround agenda, if adopted, would drive down wages and increase workplace fatalities.

“I rise in opposition to Resolution 46-R-15,” the resolution supporting the turnaround agenda, said Patrick Keenan Devlin. “It is the right to work for less. It will gut the middle class. We have in Evanston a progressive community. Send a message that we stand with our labor brothers and sisters,” he told the 10 members of the Rules Committee.

Firefighter/paramedic Jason Hayes said, “I hope the governor’s wrongheaded approach will be met with the scorn it deserves. I ask this Council to give the resolution its due consideration – which is to say, none at all.”

On the motion of Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, the Committee unanimously rejected the governor’s agenda by a roll-call vote and decided to send a tape of the meeting to the governor.

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...