(Chicago) – ANALYSIS: Illinois AFSCME Council 31 attempted on Friday to derail Governor Pat Quinn’s effort to showcase the roll-out of high-speed rail in Illinois. But their protest train remained stuck in the station.
Quinn was joined by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo, Illinois Transportation Secretary Ann L. Schneider, Amtrak Chairman Tom Carper, and by angry AFSCME protesters whose state jobs the governor intends to eliminate and whose pension he aims to shrink.
Quinn and company sought to “celebrate” the demonstration of 110-mph speeds between Dwight and Pontiac on the Chicago-St. Louis rail corridor. The 110-mph Amtrak service is projected to be in place along nearly 75% of the Chicago-St. Louis corridor by 2015, reducing travel time by more than an hour.
But AFSCME protesters, who have been routinely attempting to protest the Democratic governor at public events over the last few months, sought on Friday to be skunks at Quinn’s “celebration”. More than 75 demonstrators hounded Quinn at the Joliet train station and more state workers were in Normal.
“Retirees [are] fearful of pension cuts & health care increases,” said Illinois AFSCME member Louis Brick. “We can’t get by.”
Quinn ignored the protesters, who were also busy blasting Quinn on Twitter #PatQuinnTruthSquad and Facebook, but Durbin broke from the day’s protocol to talk to the Illinois AFCME employees.
Despite the high-profile, vocal assaults on Quinn by AFSCME, not all of Illinois organized labor is hammering away on the governor.
In fact, key organized labor groups are happy with the governor.
On Thursday, for example, the new $1 billion Illinois Clean Water Initiative unveiled by Quinn, which will overhaul Illinois’ aging water infrastructure and create 28,500 jobs according to the governor, brought praise from Thomas Villanova, president of the Chicago and Cook County Building and Construction Trades Council
“Governor Quinn’s Clean Water Initiative adds the muscle of the state of Illinois to the skilled muscles of Illinois working men and women to build a water system that will serve Illinois residents for decades,” said Villanova, whose union represents 100,000 workers. “This will put thousands of our members to work in the coming years and that is good for every worker trying to put food on the table.”
And in the last quarter’s campaign finance reports that ended on September 30, organized unions were writing checks to Quinn. Operating Engineers Local 150, for example, wrote a $25,000 check.
Moreover, despite AFSCME demonstrators’ noise, Quinn won the battle for news media coverage.
· “Illinois Amtrak train hits 110 mph in 5-minute test run” Rockford Register Star: Gov. Pat Quinn gives his thumb up in approval after an Amtrak train attained the speed of 110 mph on a stretch of track just south of Dwight on Friday, Oct. 19, 2012. Clapping in approval at center is U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.
· “Illinois Doubling Down On High-Speed Rail” St. Louis Public Radio: Illinois Governor Pat Quinn was on board Friday when an Amtrak train reached speeds of 111 mph for the first time along a Chicago to St. Louis route. The train hit the mark on a stretch between Dwight and Pontiac before braking back to normal speeds of 79 …
· “Amtrak Train Hits 111 Mph During Test Run” NBC Chicago: The 111 mile per hour speed the train reached during the test run “is the fastest time of a passenger train outside the Northeast in American history,” according to Governor Pat Quinn, who received credit for securing the necessary funding for Illinois.
· ‘Wooo!’ Amtrak train briefly hits 111 mph in test run Chicago Tribune: Applause and gleeful laughter broke out at 110 mph among Gov. Pat Quinn, U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, Sen. Dick Durbin and others counting up the incremental ticks in speed as they stared at a digital speedometer and a GPS map on a …
Illinois AFSCME Council 31’s pressure on Quinn so far has failed to force the governor to back down on either his layoff plans, with the exception of DCFS, or his pension reform plans. AFSCME’s campaign has also not galvanized solid, global opposition to Quinn. And the news media, which has now grown accustomed to the protests, may now be tuning out the union’s message.
If AFSCME sought to embarrass Quinn on Friday, it failed.
If AFSCME seeks more broadly to run Quinn out on a rail and win both news media attention and public sympathy for its demands through the protests, it may be failing on that score, too.