Cupich to Chicago union workers: 'I am with you'

CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - Chicago is considered to be expensive because the cost of doing business in the area, which often includes higher wages won by labor unions.

But Archbishop Blase Cupich is singing unions' praises, and they gave him a series of standing ovations on Thursday.

As FOX 32’s Political Editor Mike Flannery reports, the debate over ‘Right to Work’ has Chicago at the tipping point.

Gov. Bruce Rauner says one way to reduce the cost of government, and the cost to taxpayers, is to reduce the power of government worker unions. Democrats oppose that.

There's now little doubt where the archbishop stands.

“I have come today to tell Chicago workers, the Catholic Church is with you. Pope Francis is with you. I am with you,” Cupich said.

Unionists at Plumbers Hall jumped to their feet when Archbishop Cupich challenged Gov. Rauner's Turnaround Agenda. The governor insists a balanced budget must include measures to save taxpayers money by weakening the bargaining power of labor unions, often called "Right to Work."

“So-called Right-to-Work laws - the Church is duty bound to challenge such efforts by raising questions based on longstanding principles. We have to ask, "Do these measures undermine the capacity of unions to organize, to represent workers and to negotiate contracts?"

While the answer is yes, that's precisely the point of Right-to-Work. Supporters argue it ultimately helps the poorest of the poor, the unemployed, by stimulating new business investment and creating more jobs.

In the archbishop's audience were former Gov. Pat Quinn and Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, leader of the legislative opposition to Rauner.

“The Archbishop has said the same thing that we've been saying in Springfield,” Madigan said.

“This is all coming down from Pope Francis. I think he's opened the floodgates for the good priests and bishops that believe in what we're doing to be able to step forward now,” said James Sweeney, President-Business Manager of Operating Engineers Local 150.

Very much in the style of Francis, there's now little doubt that Blase Cupich plans to be the most activist archbishop Chicago has seen in many decades.

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