A second attempt to override Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto failed – again by a single vote – in the Illinois House of Representatives on Nov. 8. While the governor has pushed for so-called right-to-work zones, only one municipality, Lincolnshire, enacted an ordinance, and that was blocked by the courts. At present, only a state can enact a right-to-work law, and that remains unlikely in Illinois, where both chambers of the Illinois Legislature are controlled by Democrats.
Labor activists in Illinois have a chance to bury one of Gov. Bruce Rauner’s top anti-union priorities this week, and they’re putting the full-court press on wavering Republican legislators to join them.
|Rep. Marty Moylan, an inside wireman from Chicago Local 134, is the primary sponsor of the House bill, which prohibits Gov. Bruce Rauner's so-called right-to-work zones at the local level. He's leading the effort to overturn the governor's veto of his pro-working family legislation.
At issue is one of the main tenets of Rauner’s so-called “Turnaround Agenda,” his insistence that Illinois towns and counties adopt “right-to-work” zones to squelch the power of working people and organized labor at the local level. In July, Democrats in the state Legislature, with the help of a few Republicans, passed a ban on local right-to-work ordinances in defiance of the governor. Chicago Local 134 member Rep. Marty Moylan was the bill’s primary sponsor on the House side.
But Rauner kept fighting, issuing a veto on Sept. 29.
“This right-to-work nonsense is Rauner’s top priority,” said Sixth District International Representative Shad Etchason, who also serves as the IBEW’s Illinois political coordinator. “It’s nearest and dearest to his heart, so it would be a huge victory for working people to kill it once and for all.”
That opportunity is likely to come during the Legislature’s second veto session, Nov. 7-9 in Springfield. During the first veto session, the Senate easily overrode Rauner’s veto, but the House fell one short of the 71 votes needed to enact the law.
“We had one Democrat missing,” said Etchason, “so we’re working hard to make sure we have the votes the second time around.” Rauner, who is deeply unpopular even within his own party, is expected to exert significant pressure alongside Republican leadership to push members of his party to support the veto.
Illinois AFL-CIO Legislative Director Jason Keller says the new vote will likely come on Nov. 7 or Nov. 8, depending on when Democratic vote-counters think they have the best shot to win.
“From now until then, we need every working person in the state to call their representatives, email them, visit their offices,” he said, noting the 12 wavering Republicans whose votes labor hopes to flip. The AFL-CIO may hold a rally in Springfield later this week as well, but plans are not yet clear.
Last week, Sixth District International Vice President David J. Ruhmkorff sent an email to all IBEW locals in Illinois encouraging leaders and members to call and email representatives he hoped would flip. The 12 targets are GOP Reps. Steve Andersson, Terri Bryant, John Cabello, C.D. Davidsmeyer, Mike Fortner, Chad Hays, Jerry Long, Michael McAuliffe, Tony McCombie, Bill Mitchell, Robert Pritchard and Dave Severin.
“If we get one or two of these Republicans to side with working people, then we put this issue to rest,” Ruhmkorff said. “This is about sending a message to Gov. Rauner that we can stop his anti-worker agenda – that we can beat him.”
Right-to-work laws, which allow workers to opt out of membership dues while still requiring the union to represent them, depress wages in the 28 states where they are in effect. Studies show workers in right-to-work states earn $6,109 less on average than their counterparts in free-bargaining states, and they’re less likely to have health benefits and more likely to live below the poverty line and be killed in a workplace accident.
“Allowing right-to-work to spread at the local level creates chaos for workers, for employers, for everyone,” said International President Lonnie R. Stephenson, an Illinois native out of Rock Island Local 145. “I’m confident that if we put in the work and our members call their elected representatives, the people of Illinois will beat back this governor’s attack on working people.”
Rauner, who is up for re-election in 2018, is already facing a primary challenge from within his own party, and the Illinois AFL-CIO and the IBEW state association have endorsed Democrat J.B. Pritzker. Pritzker still faces a primary election next year to choose the Democratic nominee.
Photo Credit: Creative Commons/Flickr user Daniel X. O’Neil