By CARL GREEN
Springfield, IL – Two Democratic lawmakers are proposing a state constitutional amendment to ban the phony “right-to-work” in Illinois.
Local “right-to-work” laws are already illegal in Illinois, under a bill passed by the Legislature last year and signed into law by Gov. J.B. Pritzker. But it could be overturned by a future, anti-worker legislature and governor.
It would be much harder to overturn a constitutional amendment such as the one being prepared by Rep. Lance Yednock, (D-Ottawa), and Sen. Ram Villivalam, (D-Chicago).
Yednock is a member of the large and influential Operating Engineers Local 150. He and Villivalam sponsored the “right-to-work” ban that was approved last year.
So-called “right-to-work” measures seek to make it illegal for union contracts to require that employees either join the union or at least pay fees for the union’s negotiating efforts, thus diminishing the union’s ability to win raises and other measures on behalf of workers.
GOING ON THE OFFENSIVE
If the Legislature approves the amendment this spring, it would be in time to make the November general election ballot for voters to approve or reject.
Crain’s Chicago Business, in reporting on the proposal, talked to Ed Maher, communications director of Local 150, who told them that Labor has been “playing defense” for too long and needs to go on the offensive.
“Collective bargaining is the rising tide that lifts all boats. Right-to-work laws are a threat,” Maher said.
Villivalam’s staff confirmed that he will sponsor the amendment in the Senate. Yednock ran for the Legislature in part to lead the fight against “right-to-work.”
The Illinois Chamber of Commerce and Illinois Manufacturers’ Association are already protesting the amendment.
Meanwhile, the fight goes on elsewhere. Virginia, where Democrats have taken control of the government, is moving to outlaw “right-to-work” laws, while Tennessee is trying to install “right-to-work” into the state constitution.
WHATEVER IT TAKES
Crain’s credited Local 159 for providing “much of the muscle” for the lockbox amendment that Illinois voters enacted to guarantee that all state taxes on gasoline and cars be used for roads and related transportation needs.
Maher told Crain’s that the 23,000-member union is prepared to spend what it takes to get the “right-to-work” ban through and that it has “overwhelming bipartisan support” in the Legislature.
“The people have spoken,” Villivalam said, referring to Pritzker’s defeat of Gov. Bruce Rauner, a crusader for “right-to-work,” in the 2018 election. “They clearly don’t want Illinois to be a “right-to-work” state.”
Villivalam, newly appointed chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, said prospects for passage of the amendment look good.
“This is the central issue for Illinois labor and collective bargaining,” he said. “We need stability.”