With Illinois Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and public sector unions unable to come to a labor agreement, some fear the National Guard might be deployed if state workers strike.
“It’s a terribly impractical and, in my opinion, inadvisable idea,” Republican state Rep. David Harris told The Southern Illinoisan. “You’re going to replace paper-pushers — with all due respect to bureaucrats — with people who carry M-16s and .45 pistols?”
Harris, who was once a senior Army officer, said he would advise Rauner against such a move. The concerns first arose last week from a memo sent out by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). In the memo, which was sent to its members, the union said it was concerned the governor would use the National Guard as well as retired state workers to keep the state government open in the event of a strike.
Though it is not yet known whether the governor is indeed planning to use the National Guard, retired state workers have been contacted. State agencies have been asking retirees whether they were interested in coming back to work in the event of a strike.
“The message asked me to call her back if I was interested in going to work should the possibility occur that the employees go out on strike,” David Scheina, a retired state employee, told The State Journal-Register.
Though deploying the National Guard could be seen as an extreme measure, it is not unheard of. Historically, however, the National Guard tends to be used to disrupt state workers from striking, not do their jobs. In 1877 the National Guard attempted to use force to stop a railroad strike in West Virgina. The plan backfired, however, as it only made workers more angry. The first use of the Illinois National Guard was in Chicago in 1878 in response to what happened in West Virgina. In 1970, then President Richard Nixon deployed the United States armed forces and the National Guard to disrupt a national postal worker strike.
Since taking office in January, Rauner has made labor and economic reforms a central focus of his agenda. He has argued policies all too often benefit special interest, like labor unions, at the expense of the local economy. Rauner has stood by his stance throughout the ongoing negotiations with AFSCME, even with the possibility state workers might strike. The last contract expired at the end of June.
During his campaign Rauner did promise to be tough when negotiating with public unions. He even said he’d go as far as to force a strike if necessary, according to The Guardian.
Among the many key issues AFSCME and Rauner have been unable to come to agreement on are compensation and healthcare.