Executive Director Reports

Investing in our future

November/December 2013

As much as the CEOs and shareholders of giant corporations hate paying their fair share of taxes or compensating their employees a nickel more than they have to, they are not averse to spending huge amounts of money to further their narrow self-interest.

They see it as an investment, money allocated for the preservation of their privileges. These days no one spends more lavishly in the service of consolidating the wealth and power of the already rich and powerful than David and Charles Koch, right-wing billionaire brothers who’ve seeded a vast network of conservative organizations all across the country.

Just last month, it was revealed that two groups linked to the Koch brothers had spent $15 million to influence two California ballot proposals – seeking to defeat one that would raise taxes on wealthy individuals and to pass another that would limit unions’ ability to participate in the political process.

The groups, both based in Arizona, obviously perceived the threat of increased taxes on their rich counterparts in the Golden State and the opportunity to tie the hands of their chief nemesis, the labor movement, as more than worthy of their millions.

 It’s impossible to know how much each of the rich contributors in these groups ponied up to get to $15 million because both operate under a cloak of secrecy, a cover which cost them $1 million in fines for violating California election law.

But we do know the dues paid by participants in another Koch-allied group, Freedom Partners.

Freedom Partners is an exclusive club of just 200 members that, through $100,000 membership dues, annually generates $20 million that can be used by this cabal to influence elections, legislative issues, or public policy.

These hard-headed business types who will fight over every penny they’re asked to pay in taxes or wages are willing to put up $100,000 apiece every year to push their causes.

These 200 people generate more revenue for Freedom Partners than the dues of 65,000 members produce for AFSCME here in Illinois.

And Freedom Partners is but one of many well-funded right-wing groups that are out to slash government services, undermine workers’ rights and return our country to the days when unions were next to nonexistent and “robber barons” reigned supreme.

That’s what our union and the labor movement are up against here in Illinois and throughout the country.

These corporate titans would like to gut our pensions, like the Civic Committee is trying to do here in Illinois.

They want to take over our jobs, privatizing county nursing homes, prisons and any other public service they can get their greedy hands on.

They underwrote the assault on union rights in Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan and Indiana

They’re willing to spare no expense because they regard these fights and the dollars they pour into them as an investment toward a world of unrestrained power without unions and devoid of government programs or regulations.

The local union delegates who came together at the Council 31 Biennial Convention in October share nothing in common with the people who would sell off our services, drive down our wages, and obliterate our collective bargaining rights.

But the delegates did recognize that just as those who would literally destroy us are willing to invest in their efforts, we, too, must be willing to invest in our own well-being.

They know only too well that no one else is going to put up money to preserve our pensions, prevent the privatization of services we provide, or give us the resources to conduct campaigns for fair wages and fair treatment on the job.

The modest $5.00 monthly dues increase they voted for is essential to enabling the union to continue to make those critical fights.

It is only members’ dues that have enabled our union to hold off the all-out assault on public employee pensions, provided the resources to conduct a successful campaign for the recent state of Illinois contract, and will be there to back up members in Will County if they have to strike to gain a fair contract.

It will fund the fight against privateers who would sell off county nursing homes, school bus services and sanitation programs.

It will allow all of us to continue to counter the war on workers in every corner of this state. That’s the task before us if we want to make sure that big money doesn’t wipe out all the gains that working families have made in our country.