Bruce Rauner’s plan to allow Illinois communities to enact employee wage and benefit theft zones would crater the Illinois economy

Bruce Rauner is touting right-wing lies about wages, unionization, and the economy in his crusade to drive down wages, bust unions, and destroy the already weak economy in Illinois.

A key part of Rauner’s plan to bust unions in Illinois is to divide and conquer the state by allowing local communities in Illinois to vote on whether or not to enact local versions of so-called “right-to-work” laws, which allow non-union workers to benefit from wages, health insurance, retirement plans, safer working conditions, and other benefits of union contracts without either joining or paying dues to the union that negotiated the contracts. While Rauner would call areas in Illinois that vote to implement so-called “right-to-work” laws on a local basis “employee empowerment zones”, in reality, so-called “right-to-work” laws don’t empower employees, instead, they allow non-union employees to effectively steal wages and benefits from union-negotiated contracts. If Rauner were honest about his scheme to bust unions at the local level in Illinois, he’d call areas of the state that approved of his scheme “employee wage and benefit theft zones”, and I strongly encourage Illinois Democrats and progressives to refer to Rauner’s scheme as such.

Another claim that Rauner has made about his scheme to bust unions in Illinois at the local level is that, if one were to drive down wages and other costs that businesses incur, more jobs and businesses would be created. That’s simply not true. In fact, when wages are driven down and unions are busted, the overall economy craters because workers who lose pay and benefits as a result of lower wages and no union representation aren’t able to spend as much money on groceries, gasoline, household goods, and other types of goods and services. This results in businesses losing customers and revenue, and, in many cases, forced to close and leave their employees without a job, which starts a vicious cycle of economic loss. Additionally, very few people who couldn’t afford to start a new business with current labor costs would be able to afford to start a new business with lower labor costs, so any economic gains wouldn’t even come close to offsetting the massive economic loss that driving down wages and busting unions would cause.

Regarding the areas of Illinois that would likely enact employee wage and benefit theft zones if a state law allowing local areas of the state to do so were enacted, if the legislation allowed counties to make entire counties employee wage and benefit theft zones and allowed local municipalities (cities, towns, villages, and townships) to make their jurisdictions employee wage and benefit theft zones in counties that haven’t enacted an ordinance or passed a referendum to make the entire county an employee wage and benefit theft zone, most, if not all, of the collar counties and downstate counties would probably become employee wage and benefit theft zones, as well as a few suburban areas of Cook County. The amount of economic damage that this would cause would be massive, and this would badly divide the state.

The truth of the matter is that Bruce Rauner’s plan to allow local communities to enact employee wage and benefit theft zones here in Illinois would probably cause just as much economic damage as enacting a bill to turn the entire state into an employee wage and benefit theft zone (i.e., a statewide “right-to-work” bill) would.

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