Photo by Dermot Connolly
Park Lawn clients and officials protest Governor Bruce Rauner’s proposed cut before he gave a speech in Oak Forest on June 15.
Union members and other protesters, including Oak Lawn special needs provider Park Lawn, who waited in driving rain for him to arrive at Gaelic Park in Oak Forest on Monday before he spoke to the Chicago Southland Chamber of Commerce.
Park Lawn, an organization that has been serving people with developmental disabilities for 60 years, was there to protest Rauner’s budget cuts that are expected hit social services hard.
“We wanted to show him that we matter,” said Kelly Ewing, a case manager in charge of enrichment programs at the facility, located at 5040 W. 111th St. in Oak Lawn.
Dozens of Park Lawn clients were present picketing.
“Social services are underfunded anyway. There hasn’t been any increased funding at Park Lawn for more than seven years,” said Ewing. “It is reflective of who is valued in society and who is not.”
She couldn’t say whether funding cuts would result in Park Lawn programs being cut.
Ewing said that the agency already depends heavily on fundraising, and that will have to increase to make up for any more cuts.
“The state is already slow to pay. It is a bad situation that is not getting any better,” she said.
From a worker standpoint, hundreds of union employees were on hand to give the governor a piece of their mine.
“We’re just here to let him know we don’t like what he is trying to do to the unions,” said Brian Hickey, president of the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 399.
Hickey was referring to Rauner’s efforts to revamp workers compensation laws, among other things. Electricians, carpenters, sheet metal workers, pipefitter, sprinkler fitters and others were also there.
“The union provided me with a living, a very good living, for 40 years, and the powers-that-be want to take that away. There is a movement to destroy all these unions,” said Ken Purse, a retired pipefitter from Chicago’s Ashburn neighborhood.
Rauner proposed eliminating the requirement that employees pay union dues.
While outside of the building was hostile, inside, chamber members gave Rauner a warm welcome. He spoke at length about his turnaround plan.
Rauner didn’t dwell on the protesters in his speech but said: “Change isn’t easy. If you’re not upsetting somebody, you’re not making changes.”
Keloryn Putnam, executive director of the Orland Park Chamber of Commerce, described Rauner’s speech as “pretty impressive.”
“I wasn’t surprised by what I heard him say, because I am familiar with the turnaround plan. But I was surprised by all the protesters.
“As citizens, we have to make sure that our voices are heard. They certainly heard the group outside,” she said, referring to the chanting of protesters that could be heard while Rauner was speaking inside the banquet hall.
“If residents became more informed about tort reform, I think they would become more involved. The turnout at elections is apathetic, and we get what we get.”