Illinois’ government union bargaining laws stack the deck against taxpayers

December 15, 2017

New report indicates Illinois lags behind neighbors in government union bargaining reform

CHICAGO (Dec. 14, 2017) – Public sector union power is a root contributor to the high cost of government in Illinois. The state has among the highest state and local tax burdens in the nation. While other states have taken steps to rein in the cost of government, Illinois has remained a laggard in adopting government union bargaining rules, according to a new report from the Illinois Policy Institute.
The report, “Rigged: How Illinois stacks the deck against taxpayers,” found that all of Illinois’ neighboring states have attempted to rein in government costs by reforming government union bargaining rules. That means Illinois’ labor laws are far behind the curve.
Collective bargaining is the process of negotiating contracts between state and local government employers and unions representing government employees.
In Illinois, these laws create a steep financial burden for private sector workers, whose wages have remained stagnant since the Great Recession, while public sector worker salaries have continued to climb. One of the biggest government cost-drivers is public employee pay and pensions.
Highlights: Illinois’ government union bargaining rules are behind the curve in four key areas:

  • Strike ability: Illinois alone gives most government worker unions the power to strike. On the other hand, all six of Illinois’ neighbors prohibit most or all government workers from going on strike, helping protect residents from union bullying tactics.
  • Power to negotiate over virtually any subject: Government worker contracts in Illinois are open to negotiation on virtually all subjects, from wages to health care to days off. Four neighboring states offer some limitations on contract negotiations.
  • No limit on contract length: Illinois does not have a limit on most government worker contract lengths. Illinois has seen contracts as long as 10 years. Four neighboring states restrict contract length; the longest contract duration in any of those states is capped at five years.
  • Lack of right to work: Every one of Illinois’ neighboring states has worker freedom.
Mailee Smith, staff attorney and labor policy expert, says:
“When comparing Illinois with its surrounding states, it’s obvious the state gives extraordinary power to public sector unions. Illinois has some of the most unfair laws in the region when it comes to negotiating with government worker unions on behalf of taxpayers. That, in turn, drives up the cost of operating the government.
“It’s an unfair system in which taxpayers are held hostage to exorbitant government spending, with no recourse. It’s time to follow the lead of our neighbors and enact commonsense government union bargaining reforms.”
Illinois Policy Institute’s full report “Rigged: How Illinois stacks the deck against taxpayers” can be viewed online at
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