During the height of the battle between the state of Wisconsin and public employee unions earlier this year, an Illinois state senator decided to take a different stand here in Oak Park.
Residents may have noticed red signs popping up on Oak Park front lawns, proclaiming “UNION: STAND IN SOLIDARITY,” signed by the Democratic Party of Oak Park and state Senator Don Harmon.
Reached last week, Harmon said he was approached by members of the local Democratic Party earlier this year, asked to support union rights. He helped make some of DPOP’s funds available to print a couple of hundred signs, which are available at their office, 1243 N. Woodbine.
“It seemed reasonable,” he said. “We always want to try to make sure the members of the Democratic Party of Oak Park have a voice in the party. We are very much an open organization and one that tries to serve our members’ interests.”
The controversial Wisconsin budget measure stripped public employees of many of their collective bargaining rights, required them to pay more for pensions and health care, and ceased the practice of deducting union dues directly from paychecks. The legislation is currently being challenged in court.
Harmon said he doubts such a law would ever be proposed in Illinois. The state is trying to take a more collaborative approach to address its budget crisis, he said. Those efforts include yet-to-be-passed legislation that makes it harder for teachers to strike and easier to lay off tenured teachers.
“I just don’t think we have the same sort of animosity in Illinois that the governor of Wisconsin has brought to his state,” said Harmon, who lives in Oak Park. “We would want to work collaboratively with public employees to try to make sure that the state stays responsible and effective.”