The 6 biggest myths about banning local Right to Work in Illinois

Mailee Smith

Senior Director of Labor Policy and Staff Attorney

Mailee Smith
November 2, 2017

The 6 biggest myths about banning local Right to Work in Illinois

The Illinois House failed – by just one vote – to override Rauner’s veto of SB 1905, a ban of local Right-to-Work ordinances. But the bill is likely come back for another vote.

If ever there was a time to bring more jobs to Illinois, it is now.

But if the General Assembly overrides Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of Senate Bill 1905, things could get even worse.

SB 1905 prohibits local governments from enacting their own Right-to-Work ordinances. In effect, it would prohibit local leaders from enacting policies that attract new businesses to their communities. What’s more, it would hold criminally liable those leaders who try.

Rauner vetoed the bill Sept. 29. In a 70-42 vote, the Illinois House of Representatives failed to obtain the supermajority it needed on Oct. 25 to override Rauner’s veto of SB 1905. The override failed by only a single vote.

It’s very likely the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Marty Moylan, D-Des Plaines, will bring it up for another vote before the veto session ends in early November.

In the meantime, rumors regarding the impact of SB 1905 and Right-to-Work policies in general are spreading through Springfield. Here is what you need to know to separate the myths from the facts.

Myth No. 1: SB 1905 is good for workers

SB 1905 would leave job seekers without much hope. Bottom line: Businesses reject Illinois as a site for relocation or expansion because it is not a Right-to-Work state.

The majority of states, including nearly all of Illinois’ neighbors, are now Right to Work – a pro-business policy that attracts new companies and jobs. But instead of helping Illinois compete with its Midwestern neighbors, SB 1905 would strip local government leaders of the ability to enact ordinances that will attract businesses to their communities.

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.

Illinois cannot compete effectively for good jobs without Right to Work.

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. The three remaining contenders are reportedly Right-to-Work states.

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.

Local Right-to-Work zones would help attract businesses to areas that might otherwise get overlooked along with the rest of the state. SB 1905 denies communities the ability to compete with the 27 Right-to-Work states across the nation.

Myth No. 2: Local Right to Work hurts jobs

Illinois’ Right-to-Work neighbors are experiencing jobs growth, while Illinois experiences losses.

With the exception of Missouri, all of Illinois’ neighbors have fully enacted Right to Work. And unlike Illinois, those states are experiencing jobs growth, not jobs decline.

During the recession, Illinois lost more than 96,000 manufacturing jobs, and it has lost 1,740 more since then, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

But neighboring states with Right-to-Work laws have gained manufacturing jobs over the same time period: 81,725 in Indiana, 11,246 in Iowa, 135,640 in Michigan and 29,540 in Wisconsin. Kentucky, which enacted Right to Work in 2017, also added jobs.

Myth No. 3: Right to Work impedes collective bargaining rights 

Right to Work prohibits forcing workers to pay dues or fees to a union as a condition of keeping their jobs. It makes no changes to the collective bargaining process.

The union elected to represent employees in a workplace will still be the exclusive representative for all workers in the collective bargaining unit. The union and the employer will still negotiate over wages, hours and/or other conditions of employment. The employer will still be bound to the terms in the collective bargaining agreement. And the union will still represent workers in grievances.

Nothing in the collective bargaining process itself changes.

The only difference is that workers will no longer be forced to pay fees to a union they do not support.

Myth No. 4: A trailer bill will fix the criminal penalties

SB 1905 does not just prohibit local Right to Work; it also holds criminally liable any government officials who violate that prohibition. That hinders their ability to enact policies that are business-friendly without fear of reprisal.

Government officials who violate the prohibition in SB 1905 will be subject to a Class A misdemeanor charge, which carries with it up to one year in jail and/or up to a $2,500 fine.

Moylan, the House sponsor of the bill, announced during floor debate on Oct. 25 that, “as a compromise,” he planned to file a trailer bill to remove the criminal penalty section of SB 1905. To his credit, Moylan did file such a measure in the form of an amendment to Senate Bill 770.

However, there are a couple of problems with this situation.

First, there is no guarantee the trailer bill will ever make it out of committee, let alone go toward a floor vote. .There are also no guarantees as to the passage of the trailer bill, as the House sponsor has no control over the process or the way in which people vote.

Second, Moylan sees removing the criminal penalty as a “compromise.” In other words, he would rather include the criminal penalty – which undermines democracy – but is removing it only as a compromise to get the rest of the bill passed.

Myth No. 5: SB 1905 ensures public employees have the right to bargain collectively

Aside from the fact that SB 1905 does not have any impact on the right to bargain collectively (see above), Moylan doesn’t seem to understand his own bill.

During floor debate on Oct. 25, he claimed multiple times that his bill is important to all employees who work under a collective bargaining agreement – including public employees. He said it affects “your policemen, your firemen …”

That is a complete misrepresentation of SB 1905. SB 1905 only prohibits local Right to Work in the private sector. It does not impact government workers such as police officers or firefighters.

Instead, public sector workers are governed by the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act and the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act – neither of which is implicated in this bill.

Moylan is pushing a bill – with criminal penalties – that doesn’t even do what he claims it does.

Myth No. 6: Illinoisans don’t want Right to Work

Most Illinoisans – including those in union households – want Right to Work.

A March 9, 2016 opinion poll by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute revealed 61 percent of Illinoisans would vote for, or lean toward voting for, a Right-to-Work law. That included 56 percent of Democrats and 51 percent of union members in Illinois.

Likewise, the majority of Americans support Right to Work and think forced union fees are wrong. In a 2014 Gallup poll, 71 percent of Americans polled stated they would vote for a Right-to-Work law. The poll also found that 65 percent of Democrats and 74 percent of Republicans would vote for a Right-to-Work law.

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