Gov. Rauner celebrates Labor Day as union battles loom

NAPERVILLE -- Gov. Rauner joined in on the Labor Day celebrations in Naperville Monday, even as the governor's own conflicts with organized labor continue.

Gov Rauner says there is no contradiction in his celebration of Labor Day, as unions maintain he is working to curb the power of state workers.

Rauner made clear that he wasn't here to talk politics, but labor is at the center of what he's working to change statewide.

"We have the hardest working people in America right here in Illinois, he said. “Today, we are out to celebrate them and honor them. … It's about celebrating the accomplishments and achievements of the hardest working people across the United States."

On Friday, a labor law judge handed down a mixed decision as to whether the governor and AFSCME, the state's largest employee union, have exhausted negotiations in a contract dispute. The decision allows the governor to enforce his wishes about subcontracting, vacation and mandatory overtime. Talks must continue cover wages and health insurance.

"We are looking at it. It's a 200 page ruling, so our attorneys are reading it," Gov. Rauner said.

The governor maintains that his efforts to weaken public sector unions are for the state's greater financial good.

"What I am all about is growing the Illinois economy, making sure we are very competitive, that we have a lot of jobs and higher family incomes. We do that through stronger economic growth," he said.

The governor's policies have furthered the divide between Republicans and Democrats, but parade watchers greeted him warmly in this GOP stronghold.

The Illinois Labor Relations Board makes the final call as to how to proceed. The board is made up of governor- appointed members.