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July 2015

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Rebuking Ill. Gov., Pro-Worker Lawmakers
Go on Right-To-Work Offensive

As a self-described member of "the 1 percent of the 1 percent," Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner doesn't exactly have his finger on the pulse of working people, his critics say.

Nor is he a fan of unions, having spent the past few months pressing for so-called "right-to-work zones" in the state.

"What he's doing is going to small municipalities first, promoting what he calls 'employee empowerment zones,'" said Collinsville Local 309 Business Manager Tim Evans. These zones would exempt workers in union shops from paying their fair share toward the servicing of their collective bargaining agreements, making it more costly for unions to advocate for fair wages and benefits.

Instead of going for a statewide bill, Rauner is looking to curry influence with local groups to move right-to-work from the bottom up, rather than from the top down, Evans said.

But instead of waiting for a scenario like what happened in March in Wisconsin — where Gov. Scott Walker signed into law a right-to-work bill that was a near copy of model legislation drafted by the secretive American Legislative Executive Council — some of Illinois' pro-worker state representatives got clever.

The Democratic majority introduced a right-to-work bill of their own, just to vote it down.

The result? After fiery debate on the House floor, it was brutally defeated: 79 against, 0 for. Most Republicans simply voted "present" or didn't vote at all.

"If the governor is serious about the changes he is proposing, the right thing to do now is for us to bring these issues into the open and have a constructive and open discussion, vote and see what steps need to be taken from there," Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan said in emailed statement to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Many Republicans criticized the procedure, since the legislation voted on wasn't drafted by the governor's office.

"What's happening today … is a disservice to this body, to this chamber and to this building," Illinois House Republican Leader Jim Durkin said. "I'm embarrassed to be part of this process today. I think this is a very dark moment in this body's chamber." Based on his votes regarding working families' issues, Durkin has a lifetime score of 28 percent from the Illinois AFL-CIO, according to Project Vote Smart.

Evans disagreed with the GOP's characterization of the vote. "The pro-worker lawmakers — they're saying, 'We'll show you where the stance is in the statehouse." Prior to the vote, Evans and other IBEW leaders had contacted lawmakers in their jurisdiction, which includes about 1,200 members. Of seven representatives polled, six said they would vote no — and one, Dwight Kay, who didn't respond to the union's request, ended up voting present.

Evans said the right-to-work zones would play havoc with working families' wages in the state.

"It just opens it up for people from across the country doing lower wage work," he said. "When you open the floodgates, you eventually lose things like project labor agreements and prevailing wages, and out-of-town contractors bid your jobs."

Illinois AFL-CIO President Michael Carrigan, who is also a member of Decatur Local 146, issued a statement highlighting the unpopularity of the governor's anti-worker vision.

"Gov. Rauner's attempts to push local governments to support his agenda have fallen flat because local citizens have pushed back," Carrigan said. "Barely two dozen of the more than 1,000 Illinois municipalities have supported Rauner's anti-worker resolution, while more than twice that number have rejected or tabled it."


Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has called for so-called 'right-to-work zones' across the state.

Right-to-Work in Delaware? No Thanks, Lawmakers Say

A GOP-led move to create so-called right-to-work zones in Delaware has been scuttled by the state Senate's Democratic majority.

Senate Minority Leader Greg Lavelle sponsored the legislation, which he said would help shore up the state's manufacturing base. The bill would have allowed the Delaware Economic Development Office to create industrial zones where the ability of workers to collectively bargain for wages and benefits is weakened. It was defeated on April 29.

"Other states are showing the way to increase manufacturing, with the adoption of right-to-work laws," Lavelle said in a press release.

Doug Drummond disagrees. The Wilmington Local 313 business manager was quoted by WBOC-TV Channel 16 saying that the legislators were misleading the public, and that no company — manufacturing or otherwise — is bound by law to have a union.

"It's the union's job to go out and organize," Drummond said.

The legality of such right-to-work zones is still up for debate. Earlier this year, several counties in Kentucky, which requires employees represented by unions to pay their fair share toward servicing their collective bargaining agreements, decided to take matters into their own hands by passing area right-to-work laws.

Nine unions — including the IBEW — filed a suit in Kentucky arguing that the National Labor Relations Act stipulates that such laws can only be enacted at the state level, not in smaller counties or municipalities.

What's not up for debate, labor leaders say, is that right-to-work laws erode workers' efforts to collectively bargain by making it harder for unions to collect dues, driving down wages and benefits. The average worker in a right-to-work state makes $1,500 less a year than his or her counterpart in union-friendly states.

Employees in pro-worker states are also more likely to have job-based health benefits.

Right-to-work has been a hot topic with anti-worker state lawmakers this year.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed right-to-work into law on March 9, despite a vocal chorus of opposition from thousands of working families. The last states to pass the laws were Indiana and Michigan, both in 2012.

About 11 percent of Delaware's workforce is represented by unions, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The nationwide median weekly earnings of nonunion workers in 2014 hovered around $760 — just 79 percent of earnings for union members, who took home about $970, the BLS reported.


Democratic lawmakers in Delaware's state Senate voted down a recent right-to-work bill.