Labor unions sponsored the Illinois delegates 7:00 am breakfast at the Omni Hotel Tuesday morning. Delegates, some looking a little bleary-eyed after Monday night's round of parties, barely had time to grab breakfast before Mike Madigan, with his Democratic Party Chair hat on, called the meeting to order at 7:30 sharp.
Labor leaders, Illinois politicians and an Obama staffer rallied the troops focusing on a labor theme.
Congressman Danny Davis told delegates Barack Obama had not been afraid to tackle the tough issues saying he'd been to five bill signings in recent weeks, including an executive order improving early education for African American children.
“At times, he's as smooth as silk,” said Davis. “That's the reason I like him as much as I do.”
“The governors of Indiana and Wisconsin don't want unions to exist," Senate President John Cullerton told delegates. "But, in Illinois, we respect the union's right to organize."
Cullerton thanked unions for their support and called labor the backbone of the Democratic party.
But it was hard to ignore the two huge problems facing organized labor in Illinois: a pending teachers strike in Chicago, and proposed pension cuts and layoffs for state workers.
Illinois Federation of Teachers union president Dan Montgomery gave a shout out to Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis, telling delegates: “I'm proud of what they've done so far. They are fighting for kids.”
He got a polite round of applause.
National president of the American Federation of Teachers union Randi Weingarten never mentioned the possible strike as she told delegates: “We will fight for public schools for every single child.”
Gov. Pat Quinn did not address delegates this morning. There was a funny moment as I noticed the governor standing by himself up against a wall as the meeting went on. Finally, Chairman Madigan came over and invited him up to the speaker's head table. A moment of civility between the two men, often at odds.
Watch Quinn in the web extra video below as he responds to AFSCME and prepares for his upcoming convention speech.
AFSCME, the state and county workers union, has promised to bring Quinn's battle with the union to the convention. AFSCME sent a letter to all Illinois convention delegates saying Gov. Quinn's policies were undermining the working people of Illinois.
Obama delegate and AFSCME political director John Cameron told me the letter had gotten a positive response from delegates and was putting added pressure on Quinn to reach an agreement with AFSCME. Watch Cameron in the web extra video below as he blasts the governor's labor policies.
There were few delegates who thought an agreement on pension reform would come any time before the November election.
The tension got even thicker after AFSCME national president Lee Saunders was initially invited to speak to the Illinois delegation Wednesday morning. Saunders made it clear that he would speak about Quinn's record on pensions and collective bargaining rights. AFSCME spokesperson Anders Lindahl says he was told he wasn't wanted under those conditions, so he turned the invitation down.