61% of Illinois voters support Right to Work, poll finds

61% of Illinois voters support Right to Work, poll finds

A new poll conducted by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute in February 2016 reveals that a clear majority of voters – including 55 percent of Democrats and 51 percent of union members – support or lean toward supporting Right-to-Work laws.

A majority of Illinois voters support worker freedom.

In fact, 61 percent of Illinois voters would vote for, or lean toward voting for, a Right-to-Work law, according to a poll released in March by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University.

By contrast, 33 percent of voters polled reported that they do not support, or lean toward not supporting, Right to Work, which prohibits forcing workers to pay dues or fees to a union as a condition of keeping their jobs.

The poll also revealed that support of Right to Work is bipartisan – 55 percent of Democrats said they would vote for or lean toward supporting the law, as did 69 percent of Republican voters surveyed.

But perhaps the most telling finding from the poll is this: 51 percent of union members responded that they lean in favor of Right-to-Work laws.

Support for worker freedom is nothing new, even among union officials.

Gary Casteel, secretary-treasurer for the United Auto Workers, said the following while he was in charge of organizing autoworkers in southern states:

“I’ve never understood [why] people think Right to Work hurts unions … To me, it helps them. You don’t have to belong if you don’t want to. So if I go to an organizing drive, I can tell these workers, ‘If you don’t like this arrangement, you don’t have to belong.’ Versus, ‘If we get 50 percent of you, then all of you have to belong, whether you like to or not.’ I don’t even like the way that sounds, because it’s a voluntary system, and if you don’t think the system’s earning its keep, then you don’t have to pay.”

Given the positive economic results in Right-to-Work states, it’s not surprising that many are looking to worker-freedom reforms to generate jobs growth.

Currently, the majority of U.S. states have Right-to-Work laws, and among those are several of Illinois’ neighbors. While Illinois suffers economically, its neighbors – and therefore its main competitors for business in the Midwest – are enjoying the economic benefits of Right to Work.

For example, data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveal that average wages have increased in both Indiana and Michigan since those states enacted Right-to-Work laws in 2012. And according to the U.S. Census Bureau, both states experienced population growth between July 2014 and July 2015.

Illinois, on the other hand, was one of only seven states that experienced population decline during that same time period. Between 2001 and 2011 forced-unionization states, including Illinois, lost 2.1 million jobs. Right-to-Work states, however, added 1.7 million jobs during this time – even as the Great Recession ravaged much of the country.

Some Illinois officials are paving the way for worker-freedom reform in Illinois. On Dec. 14, 2015, Lincolnshire’s village board voted to become the first Right-to-Work municipality in the Land of Lincoln. Specifically, the provision adopted by Lincolnshire allows private-sector workers in the village to keep their jobs without having to pay union dues or fees.

With the majority of Lincolnshire residents supporting the Right-to-Work measure, the board’s 5-1 decision in favor of it simply gave voice to the will of the people. Yet this public support has not curbed union animus against worker freedom. Four unions, including three AFL-CIO affiliates, filed suit in federal court in February, directly challenging the Right-to-Work provision. The Liberty Justice Center is taking the lead in defending the village against the legal attack. A separate lawsuit related to the Open Meetings Act was also filed against Lincolnshire by the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 in state court.

It is time for Illinois lawmakers to listen to the people and pass statewide Right to Work. Kowtowing to out-of-touch political cronies and union officials only keeps Illinois down while its neighbors prosper.

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