Bruce Rauner is used to being in charge, so he might have been a little surprised by what happened to him, in public, last Thursday.

At the ceremony designating Chicago’s Pullman District a national monument, Gov. Rauner got the “cold shoulder” when it came time for the official photo that would memorialize the event.

Rauner expected to be in the photo, alongside President Obama, Mayor Emanuel, Sen. Mark Kirk and other notables.

It was not to be.

Though the president recognized the watching Rauner in his speech, the governor — who has repeatedly blamed unions for the state’s fiscal woes and is pushing for anti-union legislation — was later blocked by a rope line from joining other dignitaries onstage with Obama.
Asked about the snub by reporters, Rauner smiled but walked away without answering.

It would be hard for a non-boss to understand how this governor, who campaigned against labor unions and who in the last month has launched new attacks intended to weaken labor unions, could have thought it would be appropriate for him to be in this particular photo.

The Pullman District, once home to Pullman employees who built and staffed the famous Pullman railroad cars, is an important part of American labor history.

After a crippling depression hit and the stock market tanked in 1893, George Pullman began firing low-level employees and severely cutting their wages — but not their rents. (Pullman unapologetically shielded himself and upper-level managers from financial strife). Before long, he had an uprising on his hands as workers went on strike. Rioting erupted and things got bloody. Train service in railway hub Chicago and, consequently, the entire nation was severely disrupted as Pullman cars were yanked from tracks (mail service took a big hit, too). Federal troops were finally sent in to quell the tumult.

Including the governor in the photo would have led to a statewide game of “What’s wrong with this picture?”

As the IFT’s spokesperson put it,

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It was the second time in as many days that the Governor was reminded that, despite spending $20 million of his own money to win the election for governor, he doesn’t get to do whatever he wants.

He can show up at a big event, but he doesn’t get to be in the photo with the President.

He can propose a budget plan that brutalizes working families, but he can’t impose his bad ideas because the people who have to vote on it don’t work for him.

Rauner The Citizen was the toast of every party he attended.

Rauner The Governor needs to learn how to play with others.

And maybe rethink the whole “demonizing labor” thing.


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