This past week, both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly sought to override Gov. Rauner’s veto of the Collective Bargaining Freedom Act. This legislation aims to keep Illinois jobs in the hands of Illinois workers and contractors.
As the governor continues to pursue his anti-union agenda, he has taken his fight to Washington and the federal court system. Just last week, the governor made it clear he wanted Trump and the Republicans in Congress to give states the authority to diminish pensions, effectively asking the federal government to void a portion of our state’s Constitution.
Additionally, he has attempted to use a village of 7,000 people in the Chicago suburbs to change the labor laws of our state of nearly 13 million. The village of Lincolnshire adopted a local right-to-work ordinance. This was challenged in federal court, where Judge Michael Kennelly ruled that the National Labor Relations Act applied only to states and territories, not individual municipalities.
During this lawsuit, the village was represented by the Liberty Justice Center, the legal arm of a right-wing think tank, the Illinois Policy Institute, a group based in Chicago that has received money from Rauner in the past. The group is representing the village pro bono.
This ruling is being appealed to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago because of what the village believes is an inconsistent ruling. This is because the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Kentucky cities can enact right-to-work ordinances.
That is why the Collective Bargaining Freedom Act is so important. Under the act, regardless of what the federal courts rule, the right to establish right-to-work zones would be reserved solely for the state, guaranteeing a uniform set of rules from Chicago to Cairo.
Our labor laws should be consistent throughout the state to avoid a confusing patchwork of regulations that varies from city to city. This legislation keeps that consistency and helps workers and contractors by preventing out-of-state contractors from taking Illinois jobs and sending the money across state lines.
The legislation was not without controversy, however. Some were uneasy with the criminal penalties included in the legislation. We both felt that while those penalties were not ideal, they were the will of the sponsor, and it sought to accomplish the goal of stopping right-to-work from sneaking into Illinois. It is our hope that changes are made to the legislation that will bring even greater bipartisan support for Illinois workers and contractors.
David Koehler represents the 46th District in the Illinois Senate and Jehan Gordon-Booth represents the 92nd District in the Illinois House. Both live in Peoria.