Rauner proposes right-to-work zones in economically-depressed areas

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner is taking on the state's unions by proposing right-to-work zones in some of Illinois' economically-depressed areas.

But Rauner says he is not advocating that Illinois becomes a right-to-work state.

On the city's West Side, where African American men suffer one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, no one we talked to worried that the governor's call for right-to-work zones might lead to lower wages.

"When it comes to us, especially in the younger generation of the black community, any wage is a better wage than zero," said Mark Carter, an activist.

During Tuesday's presentation in Decatur, the newly-elected Rauner said union membership should be a choice in communities that want it that way.

"Just by that change in the regulation would mean 61,000 new jobs," Rauner said. "We don't have to do it statewide to compete. I'm not advocating statewide but I want local voter control of this issue."

The venture capitalist-turned politician says companies would flock to Illinois right-to-work zones where labor costs would be cheaper.

"It would be very important for us to become competitive against Indiana, Michigan and these other states through more right to work laws," said Ted Dabrowski of the Illinois Policy Institute.

"It's very hard out here, period," said Ted Davis, a 44-year-old who has been unemployed for 10 years.

Davis would like to see trade unions in less control of the construction industry, where he says African Americans find it most difficult to find work.

"They do what they have to do for their own people," Davis said.

Chicago Federation of Labor President Jorge Ramirez opposes right-to-work zones, adding:"It's one thing to create jobs, it's another thing to create a middle class. Don't act like unions get in the way of a strong, healthy community."

Activist Carter told me Rauner's plan will benefit from an increasingly-strained relationship between African Americans and organized labor.

"When it comes to my generation, we have never benefited from the relationship the establishment in the black community has had with the unions," Carter said.

The right-to-work zones would have to be approved by the General Assembly, both chambers of which are controlled by Democratic super majorities.
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