Illinois government unions give Madigan $10 million reasons to stay together
The state’s government unions have heavily funded the election committees run by longtime Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan – who then uses his influence to pass union-friendly bills.
Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan’s power over politicians comes from controlling campaign cash. He got more than $10 million of that campaign cash from Illinois’ government unions. He used that political power to sway how those unions are treated in Illinois.
Now that Madigan has been implicated in a federal corruption investigation into whether Commonwealth Edison bought his influence over legislation, those unions are working to keep him in power.
Despite efforts to pressure or persuade, seven Democratic Illinois House members and three state senators have broken with Madigan and called for his resignation as House speaker, chairman of the Democratic Party of Illinois or both. Another 53 Illinois Democratic leaders, including two former gubernatorial candidates and a former lieutenant governor, have also asked Madigan to resign.
Corruption ’s crippling political influence has long been felt throughout Illinois, but now it’s garnering national attention. Even Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has called on Madigan to resign, but only if the allegations are true.
Money. Influence. Power. Privilege. Madigan’s deep financial ties to the state’s government unions has yielded union-friendly legislation that stands out through the region and gives government union contracts greater strength than state law.
In the past 26 years, government unions have directed over $10 million to the election committees run by Madigan. These four committees have received significant amounts from some of the biggest Illinois unions and their political action committees:=
13th Ward Democratic Organization
- Illinois Federation of Teachers/American Federation of Teachers: Over $109,000
- Service Employees International Union: Over $ 331,000
- American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees: Nearly $240,000
- Illinois Education Association/National Education Association: Nearly $162,000
- Illinois Federation of Teachers/American Federation of Teachers: Over $468,000
- Service Employees International Union: Over $712,000
Democratic Party of Illinois
- American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees: Nearly $674,000
- Illinois Education Association/National Education Association: Over $31,000
- Illinois Federation of Teachers/American Federation of Teachers: Nearly $746,000
- Service Employees International Union: Over $1.1 million
Friends of Michael J. Madigan
- American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees: Nearly $1.4 million
- Illinois Education Association/National Education Association: Nearly $453,000
- Illinois Federation of Teachers/American Federation of Teachers: Nearly $1.9 million
- Service Employees International Union: Over $1.9 million.
Those donations translate into legislative action.
Illinois maintains some of the most union-friendly laws in the region, rigging the system against the state’s taxpayers. While neighboring states have passed reforms to better even the playing field between government unions and state residents, Illinois continues to cling to outdated provisions, such as giving government workers the ability to strike, thereby disrupting essential services for residents and taxpayers. Attempts at taxpayer-friendly labor reforms in Illinois go nowhere.
Bills enhancing union power, however, are nearly a sure thing under Madigan’s leadership. Take, for instance, Senate Bill 1784, which was signed into law by Pritzker in December 2019. That legislation gives unions unprecedented access to personal information of all represented government employees – including personal cell numbers and email addresses – regardless of whether those employees are union members. At the same time it prohibits any outside parties, including reporters, from filing Freedom of Information Act requests for most information related to government employees. It also allows unions to interfere with workers’ ability to exercise their First Amendment rights.
The unions know a good thing when they see it. And despite recent calls to resign, Madigan continues to fight for his power – and his union-heavy base is right there beside him.
“Labor is the largest source of campaign cash and precinct workers in the state,” wrote Capitol Fax publisher Rich Miller in his weekly column in the Chicago Sun-Times. “Cross the unions and you have few other places to turn to for help.”
Representatives who cross unions by calling for Madigan’s resignation are already feeling the pressure. In an email Miller sent out to subscribers on Aug. 4, he related how Rep. Terra Costa Howard, D-Glen Ellyn, said labor unions are “upset” and “disappointed” she has called on Madigan to resign.
She also said she’s heard from colleagues who have received calls from some unions telling them to stand down, or they won’t receive any more financial support.
The political and financial tie between Madigan and the state’s government unions runs deep. It’s becoming clear neither will go down without a fight.