House fails to ban local Right-to-Work ordinances

Mailee Smith

Senior Director of Labor Policy and Staff Attorney

Mailee Smith
October 25, 2017

House fails to ban local Right-to-Work ordinances

The Illinois House failed to override Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of Senate Bill 1905. If passed, the bill would criminalize local officials for enacting Right-to-Work ordinances.

In a 70-42 vote, the House of Representatives failed to obtain the supermajority it needed on Oct. 25 to override Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of Senate Bill 1905. The override failed by a single vote, which was needed to make SB 1905 the law of the land.

Instead of working to foster a strong economy across the state, the bill would have prohibited local officials from implementing policies that would attract jobs.

Specifically, SB 1905 would prohibit local governments from enacting their own Right-to-Work ordinances. In areas with a Right-to-Work law, workers cannot be required to pay money to a union in order to keep their jobs.

Local Right-to-Work laws can help attract businesses that might otherwise overlook the state because it has failed to enact business-friendly policies.

But SB 1905 would have tied the hands of local leaders and prevented economic ingenuity that would aid jobs growth. What’s more, it would hold criminally liable any local leaders who attempted to enact an economic policy that is in full effect in 27 U.S. states – including every neighboring state except Missouri.

The governor vetoed the bill Sept. 29.

However, Illinoisans aren’t out of the woods yet. It is possible that the override could be revived for another vote later on in veto session.

SB 1905 would have crushed job opportunities for Illinoisans

SB 1905 took specific aim at home rule communities such as the village of Lincolnshire. Following the state’s continued failure to enact reforms that would attract new economic opportunities, the Lincolnshire Village Board enacted a local Right-to-Work ordinance in 2015.

Right-to-Work zones would help attract businesses to areas that might otherwise get overlooked along with the rest of the state.

And businesses do, in fact, reject Illinois because it is not a Right-to-Work state. Illinoisans recently learned that the hard way – residents will miss out on 4,000 potential new jobs, as Toyota and Mazda have taken Illinois out of the running for a new $1.6 billion facility, opting instead, in all likelihood, to invest in a Right-to-Work state.

Illinois’ failure to follow the lead of its Right-to-Work neighbors was one of the factors in Toyota and Mazda’s decision to pass on Illinois, according to the CEO of Intersect Illinois as reported by Crain’s Chicago Business.

In 2015, Crain’s reported that the former director of Illinois’ Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity said more than 1,100 companies have “blacklisted” Illinois because it does not have a Right-to-Work law. And two-thirds of global chief financial officers surveyed by CNBC in 2015 said a Right-to-Work law is either “important” or “very important” when deciding where to grow their businesses.

SB 1905 would have prohibited local governments from enacting their own local ordinances aimed at bringing businesses to their communities, effectively handing the competitive edge to communities in the nation’s 27 Right-to-Work states, including neighboring Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin, Kentucky and Indiana.

SB 1905 would hold officials criminally liable for seeking to better their communities

SB 1905 was stunning in its severity.

It didn’t just prohibit local Right-to-Work zones. It would hold criminally liable any official who violates that prohibition.

Specifically, the bill stated:

Any officer, representative, director, elected official, or the like of any local government or political subdivision, or agent thereof who knowingly or willfully violates this Act, or who knowingly or willfully fails to comply with this Act, is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.”

That means the bill equated Right to Work – an economic policy that has been adopted by the majority of states and is sought out by businesses like Toyota and Mazda – with fairly serious crimes.

In Illinois, a Class A misdemeanor is the most serious level of misdemeanor crimes – in fact, it’s just one step down from a felony. It is punishable by up to one year in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,500.

The failure to override Rauner’s veto is a victory for Illinoisans. But residents should be wary of its revival in coming weeks. The override failed by a single House vote. Taxpayers should keep both eyes on Springfield to ensure the override remains dead.

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