By CARL GREEN
Springfield, IL – The Illinois Legislature overrode several vetoes by Governor Bruce Rauner recently, but vital legislation to outlaw local government “right-to-work” schemes remained up in the air.
Senate Bill 1905, dubbed the Collective Bargaining Freedom Act, was written to assure workers in Illinois that they are free to negotiate collective bargaining agreements with their employers, and that no local government may establish its own so-called “right-to-work” zone to block unions and their employers from government-free collective bargaining, as Rauner has proposed.
Rauner vetoed the legislation in September. But the Senate recently voted to override the veto, but the effort fell one vote short in the House.
While Rauner called this vote a “victory for Illinois,” backers of the legislation said one House member who would have voted for it, Sam Yingling (D-Round Lake Beach), was on an excused absence and that they will bring it back this month for another vote.
“We have to do everything we can to preserve the middle class,” said Representative Marty Moylan (D-Des Plaines), sponsor of the override attempt.
AN ATTACK ON WORKING PEOPLE
Representative Jay Hoffman (D-Swansea) said local “right-to-work” zones are nothing more than an attack on working people. “We shouldn’t even be talking about this, but the governor, over and over and over again, keeps beating his fist on the desk and demanding that he have ‘right-to-work’ in some form in Illinois.”
So-called “right-to-work” (RTW) outlaws paying union dues or fairshare fees by banning union-represented businesses from negotiating labor contracts that assure workers will either pay dues or a smaller “fair share” fee to cover the union’s cost of bargaining and representation. The goal is to financially starve unions, which, by federal law, have to represent all workers in a union shop whether they pay dues or not, thereby limiting the union’s ability to negotiate and represent workers.
Four of the votes to override Rauner’s veto of the Collective Bargaining Freedom Act came from Republicans. One issue in the vote was the inclusion of misdemeanor penalties for local government officials who vote to approve RTW zones. Moylan said he would file a companion bill to remove those penalties.
OTHER VETO OVERRIDES
Democrats did better overriding some of Rauner’s other vetoes that affect working people.
• Debt reporting – This bill would require the governor to provide more information about the state’s debt, as sought by the Democratic Comptroller, Susana Mendoza. The veto was overridden in the House on a rare, unanimous 112-0 vote. It now goes to the Senate.
It would require state agencies to report monthly on bills they have not sent to the comptroller’s office for payment. Now, that report only comes annually – too late to do any good. The current backlog of bills is about $16 billion.
• Workers’ compensation – This bill of importance to union workers also fell short of an override. House Bill 2622 would allow the state to create its own workers’ compensation insurance company, the Illinois Employers Mutual Insurance Co., to compete against private companies that have so far refused to reduce rates even though the Legislature has reduced compensation payouts.
Rauner vetoed the enabling legislation. The House voted 65-50 to override, but that was six votes short.
• Roof repairs – A successful override of this bill in the House might help union roofers by requiring businesses to hire a licensed roofer when a torch is to be used for roof repairs. It was sent to the Senate.
• Student loans – The Senate overrode Rauner’s veto of the “Student Loan Bill of Rights,” which would revise the student loan process to require lenders to provide more information and prevent them from engaging in unfair or deceptive practices. It would create a student loan ombudsman to help borrowers, and it would require licensing of loan servicers. The measure will now go before the House.
“At a time when many young people are graduating from college with crippling debt, we need to make sure that students understand their rights and have access to proper resources,” said a sponsor, Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign).
• Life insurance payouts – The House overrode a veto of this bill to make it easier for families to collect life insurance benefits by requiring insurance companies to compare their records with the Social Security Administration’s death list. State Treasurer’s Office auditors found more than $550 million in death benefits were not paid that should have been paid to families in Illinois between 2011 and 2015. The bill was sent to the Senate.
• Wage histories – The House voted 80-33 to override the veto of an amendment to the Equal Pay Act that would prohibit employers from screening job applicants based on their wage histories or requiring that applicants disclose previous wages or salaries or seek those amounts from previous employers. The bill now moves to the Senate.