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IL-annoyed: State’s First Attempt at Local “Right-to-Work” Taken to Court by Multiple Unions

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A legal showdown is shaping up in Illinois where the Village of Lincolnshire will have to defend its attempt to pass “Right-to-Work” on the local level.  Two lawsuits challenge the village board’s authority to pass such legislation, one from the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 150 and one from a group of four union locals, three of which are represented by the AFL-CIO. 

The decision to pass the ordinance was made in December at the behest of Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner, who proposed local “Right-to-Work” laws as part of his “turnaround agenda.”  The lawsuits, which were filed two days apart, both argue that “Right-to-Work” can only be passed on the state level under the National Labor Relations Act.

Speaking to the State Journal-Register,  IUOE Local 150 spokesman Ed Maher argued that Lincolnshire officials had a “blatant disregard for federal law,” adding: “Lincolnshire has absolutely no authorities to pass an ordinance like this. We’re looking forward to seeing this in court.”

One possibility is that even though the board voted 5-1 in favor of passing the ordinance, they never actually believed it would become law without a court battle.  “Right-to-Work” on the local level has become a pet project of conservative think tanks who want to see the anti-union law passed in rural parts of states that still have high union density and support.

The concept of local “Right-to-Work” is in somewhat of an incubation phase and suffered an early setback in Kentucky where U.S. District Court Judge David Hale decided that Hardin County could not pass “Right-to-Work,” only the Commonwealth of Kentucky could. This may become a factor in the Lincolnshire case.

Lincolnshire will receive legal assistance, pro bono, from the Liberty Justice Center, a conservative think tank with a public interest litigation center started by the Illinois Policy Institute (IPI).  The IPI is part of the state policy network, a dark money group which often funded by and closely associated with the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).  

In November of 2013, Progress Illinois featured a report that exposed the IPI’s biggest funders.  In a statement accompanying the report, the Center for Media and Democracy’s Executive Director Lisa Graves provided the following description of the IPI’s role in policymaking:

“The ‘experts’ of State Policy Network groups get quoted on TV, in the papers, or in the legislature as if they were nonpartisan, objective scholars on issues of public policy.  But in reality, SPN is a front for corporate interests with an extreme national policy agenda tied to some of the most retrograde special interests in the country, including the billionaire Koch brothers, the Waltons, the Bradley Foundation, the Roe Foundation and the Coors family.”

The unions leading the legal charge have been clear about their willingness to go the extra mile to ensure “Right-to-Work” does not become acceptable on the local level.  As Bill Looby, political director of the Illinois AFL-CIO, told the Chicago Tribune:

“Primarily, we want to strike down the ordinance.  The impact of right-to-work is lower wages. That’s the ultimate goal, to take away the voice of the worker, and the depression of wages.”
The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Chicago on February 18th.  The four unions who brought the lawsuit forward are the IUOE Local 399, the Construction and General Laborers District Council of Chicago and Vicinity, Laborers’ International Union of North America, AFL-CIO, the The Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters, United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, and the aforementioned IUOE Local 150, AFL-CIO.


One Comment on “IL-annoyed: State’s First Attempt at Local “Right-to-Work” Taken to Court by Multiple Unions”

  1. Thank you for your insightful post. I do not think people realize what is at stake here. In McHenry County next door, we have strong support for the 2nd Amendment, but few stop to realize that is also in jeopardy if we are so quick to throw out other necessary rights, like the 14th Amendment.

    Attacks on the 14th Amendment affect every person, regardless of their situation. Those who would support efforts targeting unions are ill informed about the larger purpose. Simply look at today’s headlines and begin to see the bigger picture. An attack on unions is also an attack on other rights under the 14th Amendment:

    Our Right to Due Process
    Election Laws
    Rights to Citizenship
    State’s Right to Regulations of Common Carriers (Public Utilities)
    Prohibition on Fraud in Trade
    Real Property and Zoning Laws
    Protection of State Natural Resources
    Health and Safety Regulations
    Protections Against Housing Discrimination
    Equal Protection Rights
    Citizens’ Rights to Redress from Taxing Authorities
    Protection from Improper Application of Eminent Domain

    Those who would seek to undermine the rights of one hurt all of us in the process. We will stand together. This is why I am running for County Board in District 1 for McHenry County.

    I have had enough and I am willing to fight for our working families and every neighbor’s right, regardless of which side of the isle they are on.

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