CHICAGO -- With just three weeks until the November election, the race for Illinois governor took a nasty turn, as Gov. Bruce Rauner called Democratic challenger J.B. Pritzker “deceitful, dishonest” and “a hypocrite and a fraud," while highlighting a controversy over Pritzker’s use of non-union workers to renovate his home in the Gold Coast.
Rauner knows he won’t get the endorsement of labor, but said Pritzker’s home is a powerful symbol of what he calls the “hypocrisy” of his opponent, one he hopes will erode the enthusiasm of organized labor ahead of the election.
Rauner is responding to a report published in Monday’s Chicago Tribune which details how “non-union workers did Pritzker’s home renovation" on a $25 million project on Astor Street. Other renovation projects have already put the candidate on the defensive over toilets and taxes. Now, Rauner said the issue is more fundamental: a candidate betraying his promises.
“Even though he claims to be a champion of union workers, Mr. Pritzker is anything but. He chose to use, in his $25 million renovation of his mansion, non-union workers – when it is standard in Chicago to use union workers,” Rauner said.
In a statement to WGN News, Pritzker spokeswoman Gaila Slayen wrote:
"J.B. had minimal involvement in the renovation work and any hiring decisions were made by those dealing with the day-to-day management of the renovation. J.B. has been a supporter of unions throughout his life and he is proud to have the support of the labor movement behind this campaign, including the endorsement of the Illinois AFL-CIO and many other hard-working labor unions across the state.”
“He’s clearly a phony, clearly a fraud on this. He doesn’t care about union workers. He cares about himself and protecting a few hundred thousand dollars of his inheritance,” Rauner said.
But Rauner – who came to power seeking to emulate the anti-union reforms of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker – has been derided by labor as “Rauner the Ruiner.” He took his fight against labor unions to the Supreme Court and won a landmark case that limits public sector labor unions' ability to collect fees from employees. When questioned by reporters, Rauner admitted that he has also used non-union workers for home renovations.
“We’ve used some union workers and some not. I’m not campaigning saying we have to force unionism, and the union endorsement is what it’s all about,” Rauner said.
Pritzker is leading by double-digit margins in nearly every poll and has the support of all of the state’s major labor unions.