Democratic candidate for governor of Illinois JB Pritzker was endorsed Tuesday by the Illinois American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations.
The Illinois AFL-CIO is made up of nearly 900,000 members, according to a press release from the union federation announcing the endorsement.
“I am honored to receive the endorsement of the Illinois AFL-CIO and the working families they represent across our state,” JB Pritzker said in a statement. “As governor, the labor movement will always have a seat at the table and will be a partner in our work ahead. I will always stand up for collective bargaining rights and prevailing wage, protect retirement security and pensions, and ensure safe working conditions and pay equity for working families.”
The AFL-CIO is a “voluntary federation” of 55 national and international labor unions representing 12.5 million people across the nation, according to its website.
We strive to ensure all working people are treated fairly, with decent paychecks and benefits, safe jobs, dignity, and equal opportunities,” the website says. “We help people acquire valuable skills and job-readiness for the 21st century economy.”
In the union federation's announcement, Pritzker criticized current Gov. Bruce Rauner saying he “continues to attack our working families instead of doing his job as governor.”
“Our social services and public education system are on the brink of collapse, but Rauner is focused on dismantling collective bargaining rights, cutting pensions, and opposing prevailing wage,” Pritzker said. “The AFL-CIO and the working families it represents deserve a real leader in Springfield who will always stand with them to get our state back on track. I look forward to being that governor for Illinois working families.”
The Illinois Republican Party said in a statement the AFL-CIO’s endorsement was a clear attempt by Speaker Mike Madigan to “coalesce his insiders and special interests around a crooked candidate.”
“It’s clear that this is an attempt by Mike Madigan to coalesce Chicago machine support behind his preferred candidate, J.B. Pritkzer," the statement from spokesman Steven Yaffe reads. "Madigan knows Pritzker is a fellow crooked insider who will raise taxes and support his Chicago agenda.”
Madigan has not responded to the accusation nor has he officially endorsed Pritzker.
Other candidates for governor also responded to the endorsement Tuesday.
Chicago Ald. Ameya Paward touted his own track record working with organized labor.
“I will bring that same commitment to supporting labor and working families across Illinois. Endorsements or non-endorsements won’t change that,” he said.
Sen. Daniel Biss said if he is elected governor, he will always put the interest of working families ahead of “money and the machine.”
“The working people of Illinois deserve better than being told they have to support a billionaire whose family fortune was enriched by anti-union behavior,” the senator said.
Candidate Chris Kennedy has always believed that union labor provides a competitive advantage for Illinois' economy, campaign spokeswoman Liz Utrup told NBC 5, including the working men and women of the AFL-CIO.
“Unfortunately, today's endorsement isn’t about the members,” Ultrup said. “It's about Springfield establishment insiders who cut deals and circumvented the normal endorsement process. As Governor, Chris Kennedy will continue his career-long support for the labor movement and its role in building America’s middle class.”
Rauner did not specifically respond to the endorsement at a news conference in Indiana Tuesday but did address the slow growth of union jobs in Illinois compared to the Hoosier state.
“The people of Illinois are hurting and we need to change the system,” he said.
The AFL-CIO's endorsement of Pritzker comes amid some fallout after the Chicago Tribune released FBI recordings of the candidate asking then Gov. Rod Blagojevich to be considered for the role of state treasurer.