FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 10, 2015
CHICAGO –By an overwhelming margin, Chicagoland SEIU Local 1 janitors approved a new union contract that preserves their ability to support their families and allows them access to health care. As part of this settlement with the Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) and suburban contractors, nearly 10,000 janitors and their families won wage increases and protected fully employer-paid healthcare over the next three years. The janitors were also able to narrow the suburban- downtown wage gap.
“These economic gains will directly benefit our region’s economy for years to come, helping hardworking families build a better future for themselves, their families and their communities,” said Tom Balanoff, President of SEIU Local 1. “Local 1 is leading the way for all working people – when you stand up together and bargain collectively, we all win.”
The new three year janitors’ union contract, which goes into effect April 6th, guarantees:
Nearly 2,000 janitors are still working to get their contracts settled. Chicago Public Schools and other publicly funded facilities have traditionally followed these area standards set by BOMA and the Local 1 janitors, but there is no guarantee.
“We are celebrating great progress today, but we are just getting started,” said Paula Henriquez, a janitor with Chicago Public Schools. “Now we are calling on Cook County and the City of Chicago to adopt the wage and benefit standards for janitors at Chicago Public Schools, the airports, and all publicly funded facilities set by SEIU Local 1 janitors, business leaders and BOMA.”
SEIU Local 1 unites nearly 50,000 property service workers in the Midwest, including janitors, security officers and residential doormen. Together we work to build strength for all working people, on the job and in our communities.
In a historic settlement with Chicago’s Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) and suburban contractors, nearly 10,000 janitors and their families won wage increases and protected fully employer-paid family healthcare over the next three years. This contract narrows the wage gap between downtown and suburban janitors—ensuring a better future for all of Chicagoland’s working families.
“These economic gains will directly benefit our region’s economy for years to come, helping hardworking families build a better future for themselves, their families and their communities,” said Tom Balanoff, President of SEIU Local 1. “SEIU Local 1 is leading the way for all working people – when workers stand up together and bargain collectively, we all win.”
SEIU Local 1 janitors came out in record numbers and stuck together with workers across the country to secure this victory. The fight for good jobs continues. Corporations like BMO Harris Bank continue to pay their contracted janitors poverty wages with no benefits. And more than 3,000 Chicago-area janitors are still working to get their contracts settled. Chicago Public Schools and other publicly funded facilities have traditionally followed these area standards set by BOMA and the SEIU Local 1 janitors, but there is no guarantee.
“We are celebrating great progress today, but we are just getting started,” said Paula Henriquez, a janitor with Chicago Public Schools. “Now we are calling on Cook County and the City of Chicago to adopt the wage and benefit standards for janitors at Chicago Public Schools, police stations, parks, and all publicly funded facilities set by SEIU Local 1 janitors, business leaders and BOMA.”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday April 2, 2015
CHICAGO – In an act of civil disobedience that harkens back to the civil rights movement, 20 SEIU Local 1 janitors and supporters risked arrest today at BMO Harris Bank to protest BMO’s poor treatment of its contract employees, which is deepening the divide between the richest 1% and the rest of working America. The janitors rallied with the support of faith leaders and Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle outside of BMO Harris Bank to call on the wealthy corporation to do right by the hardworking janitors who clean their downtown Chicago and suburban offices by providing them with decent wages and benefits.
“The BMO janitors’ struggle is an example of what’s wrong with our economy. But this problem is solvable—there is a clear road map for what we need to change,” said SEIU Local 1 President Tom Balanoff. “Instead of driving workers deeper into poverty, our country needs good jobs that build working families up and raise standards for all workers.”
Janitors who clean BMO’s Naperville offices perform the same job as the union janitors at the headquarters in Chicago, but are paid significantly less and have no benefits. BMO Financial Group made $4.3 billion in profits in 2014. In fact, BMO makes enough profit every six minutes to raise all 10 Naperville janitors to $15 an hour with employer paid family health insurance for an entire year.
“On this Holy Day, when we recall Jesus celebrating Passover and washing the feet of his disciples, we know that those who serve us by keeping our surroundings clean and healthy, must also be honored for their dignity and worth,” said Rev. C.J. Hawking, Exec Director of Arise Chicago and one of those arrested. “These workers deserve a just contract, regardless of where they serve.”
Those arrested today include faith leaders as well as well as janitors who are bargaining for a new contract that expires in three days. Chicagoland union janitors are uniting with BMO janitors to help raise the floor for all working families.
Throughout our history as a nation, people of good will have courageously and nonviolently engaged in protest and civil disobedience to stand up for civil liberties—including the Boston Tea Party, Harriet Tubman’s Underground Railroad, and the fight for women to gain the right to vote.
BACKGROUND: Contracts that impact the livelihood of 12,000 SEIU Local 1 members and their families expire on April 5, 2015. These janitors are joining more than 130,000 SEIU janitors in cities across the country—janitors from Los Angeles, Seattle, and New York—whose union contracts also expire in 2015 and 2016. Chicago is the first city in the country to negotiate.
CHICAGO – Leading the fight against income inequality, the SEIU Illinois State Council today announced its endorsement of Jesus “Chuy” Garcia in the 2015 Mayoral Election.
“This election presents a clear choice between Rahm Emanuel who turned his back on Chicago’s hard working families by eliminating or outsourcing good jobs to companies that slash wages and benefits and Jesus Chuy Garcia a long time progressive champion and ally of all workers,” said Tom Balanoff, SEIU Illinois State Council President. “SEIU is going to make sure that Chicago’s working families have a say in this election. We know we can’t match the tens of millions of dollars that Rahm’s billionaire friends are funneling into his campaign, but we can make sure that working families have a voice through Chuy Garcia’s campaign. We look forward to working with our friend Chuy Garcia to champion the needs of working families by restoring balance, reviving neighborhoods and building an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy few.”
“Chuy Garcia is the candidate who will best represent the interests and values of working families in our great city,” said April Verrett SEIU HCII Executive Vice President. “His track record of doing so goes back to his stand with the late Mayor Harold Washington and has continued throughout his political career. Chicago is in need of clear direction that empowers working families, not one that continues to put the burden on the backs of families who are struggling to make ends meet as Rahm Emmanuel has done. In Chuy Garcia, we will have a mayor whose first concern will be in the interest of working families.”
“The clear choice for Chicago’s working families in the upcoming election is between a future with Chuy Garcia in which all of us have access to a quality standard of living, or one with Rahm Emanuel in which workers are taken advantage of by special interests and Rahm’s rich friends,” said Ewa Miklewicz, SEIU Local 1 Janitor. “While Rahm Emanuel’s buddies are thriving in our city, we are faced with tripled water fees and scammed by the red light and speed cameras Emanuel enforced. That’s why SEIU is proud to endorse Chuy Garcia, a man on our side who will fight for the working families of our city.”
Representing more than 150,000 workers, the SEIU Illinois Council rallies behind candidates who have demonstrated a strong record on issues important to all working families. The SEIU Illinois Council represents workers including home care and child care providers, security officers, janitors, as well as public employees, medical professionals, first responders and social service workers. SEIU members are winning better wages, health care, and more secure jobs, while ensuring that workers, not just corporations and CEOs, benefit from today’s economy.
Chicago Sun Times
By: Mark Brown
And so it begins.
Gov. Bruce Rauner fired his first shot Monday in his campaign to give all Illinois workers the right to choose to work for less money.
Rauner’s legally dubious executive order relieving state employees of the requirement they pay union dues was a loud declaration the new governor aims to restore Illinois to prosperity — by undercutting the organizing power of its work force.
The governor’s initial targeting of public employee unions was no surprise given his election rhetoric, but his use of an executive order to impose his willseemed to catch everyone off guard.
“I did not see him going this far,” admitted Tom Balanoff, president of SEIU Illinois Council, who said Rauner “knows this is not legal.”
It took AFSCME Council 31 more than an hour to come up with a response before calling Rauner’s move a “blatantly illegal abuse of power.”
I think a lot of people expected Rauner to move back to the middle after the election so he could govern as a pragmatic and moderate businessman. Now it’s becoming plain he’s an ideologue who could end up making noted union antagonist Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker look like the late-labor leader George Meany.
My first thought upon learning of Rauner’s move was of Fort Sumter and the cannon shot that signaled the beginning of the Civil War, not to suggest anything so momentous.
My second thought was of my grandfather, a railroad worker who was shot and wounded by company thugs who fired on a group of union pickets in the central Illinois railroad wars 69 years ago this month. Yes, I have a visceral reaction to this stuff.
I completely understand that Illinois voters were looking to make some changes when they elected Rauner as governor, and many of them would like to give the wealthy businessman an opportunity to try things his way for a while.
But in rejecting what they saw as failed Democratic rule, it’s hard to believe they were also buying into Rauner’s emerging concept of what it takes to make Illinois more competitive.
It does raise an interesting question: Are people gullible enough to think this is really about a worker’s right to choose whether they pay dues to a union, as Rauner claims?
Or can they see through the baloney to understand that Rauner’s idea of what would make Illinois workers more competitive with other states is lower wages and benefits.
What else does more competitive mean to Rauner? It sure doesn’t mean he wants our workers to run faster and jump higher.
I read last summer’s Supreme Court decision on which Rauner is hanging his hat, and it specifically did NOT overturn court precedents that make it legal to assess so-called “fair share fees to public employees who don’t want to join the union.
As I wrote at the time, it certainly looks as if some members of the court, possibly a majority, are itching for the opportunity to do just that. But for now, that’s not the state of the law, or the law of this state.
Nobody, though, should have been too surprised by Rauner’s move.
Even before the election, I told you about a speech he gave back in 2013 to the Wauconda Township Republican Club at which he foreshadowed his plans.
In response to a question, Rauner went off on one of his then common rants about “government union bosses and the trial lawyers,” an approach he tried to downplay during the general election campaign.
“They’ve got us by the throats and I’m going to do . . . ” Rauner said before interrupting himself.
“Some of this I’m not going to talk about publicly,” he confided. “This is probably going to go out on YouTube.”
Rauner went on to reveal just a little. He said he was going to use executive orders to “take on” government unions. But he didn’t want to talk about it just then given the possibility that everyone would see him on YouTube — for who he is.
It’s like I told you before: Rauner has big plans for Illinois, and he’d let us know all about them after the election.
I’m wondering what other secret plans Rauner has up his sleeve. I’m reminded of other speeches where he talked about spoiling for a possible strike from state workers — and replacing them a la Ronald Reagan and the air traffic controllers.
If private-sector union members are thinking this is the public employee unions’ problem, then they are going to be in for a rude awakening. The same goes for non-union workers who think this is a union problem.
Chicago Sun Times
By: Natasha Korecki
Gov. Bruce Rauner on Monday waged war against government unions, signing an executive order blocking so called “fair share” union fees from state employee paychecks while announcing he was pursuing legal action to prevent public-sector unions from tapping the fees.
It was a move that Illinois labor immediately decried as “a blatantly illegal use of power” and a signal that Rauner was seeking leverage as he heads into contract negotiations with government unions.
Rauner, a Republican, said state employees who choose not to participate in unions still must pay fees through the “fair share” provision.
Rauner described moving on two fronts in blocking the automatic union fees. He signed an executive order declaring that those who want to opt out of joining a union are able to avoid paying union dues. It would not affect those who want to remain active, he said.
On the second front, Rauner tapped former U.S. Attorney Dan Webb and his powerhouse law firm Winston & Strawn to file what is called a “declaratory judgment action” in federal court to have the provision declared unconstitutional.
“Forced union dues are a critical cog in the corrupt bargain that is crushing taxpayers. Government union bargaining and government union political activity are inexorably linked,” Rauner said. “An employee who is forced to pay unfair share dues is being forced to fund political activity with which they disagree. That is a clear violation of First Amendment rights — and something that, as governor, I am duty-bound to correct.”
AFSCME, however, cited the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act, saying that fair share does not go toward political contributions. Instead, the statute says fair share covers: “proportionate share of the costs of the collective-bargaining process, contract administration, and pursuing matters affecting wages, hours and other conditions of employment.”
AFSCME spokesman Anders Lindall noted it does “not include any fees for contributions related to the election or support of any candidate for political office.”
Rauner cited Harris vs. Quinn, an Illinois Supreme Court case, saying home health care workers did not have to contribute automatically to union deductions, as precedent for his executive order and for future direction.
“We are also simultaneously filing what is known as a declaratory judgment action in the federal court asking ultimately that the [Illinois] Supreme Court declare that these fair share provisions are unconstitutional,” Rauner said. “Our all-star team of lawyers will be led by former U.S. Attorney Dan Webb and the lawyers at Winston & Strawn who will be part of the team representing the office of the governor.”
Webb and his law firm are working pro bono.
Organized labor in Illinois bristled at the announcement and promised legal action.
SEIU President Tom Balanoff told the Sun-Times Rauner’s actions were a smokescreen to really drive down working wages in Illinois.
“The order is not going to hold up. It’s not legal. Bruce Rauner knows this,” Balanoff said. He defended “fair share” as necessary and legal way to pay for services that unions provide to employees. Balanoff said fair share money goes toward collective-bargaining costs. ”I think it will undermine the ability to use the collective-bargaining process,” he said.
The state’s largest public employee union, AFSCME, vowed a legal fight.
“Bruce Rauner’s scheme to strip the rights of state workers and weaken their unions by executive order is a blatantly illegal abuse of power,” AFSCME Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch said in a statement. “Perhaps as a private equity CEO, Rauner was accustomed to ignoring legal and ethical standards, but Illinois is still a democracy and its laws have meaning.
“It is crystal clear by this action that the governor’s supposed concern for balancing the state budget is a paper-thin excuse that can’t hide his real agenda: Silencing working people and their unions who stand up for the middle class. Our union and all organized labor will stand together with those who believe in democracy to overturn Bruce Rauner’s illegal action and restore the integrity of the rule of law.”
The state’s teachers union also vowed to bring legal action.
“Our state has big financial problems, and the new governor’s ideological attacks on working families isn’t the way to solve them,” Illinois Federation of Teachers spokeswoman Aviva Bowen said. “Today’s executive order is an abuse of power and the democratic process, and we won’t stand for it. We are exploring all legal options at this point, and we fully intend to hold this governor accountable to the U.S. Constitution, Illinois law, and collective-bargaining agreements.”
Rauner has been at odds with unions since he launched his political campaign in 2013. The Winnetka venture capitalist repeatedly said “government union bosses” were what ailed Springfield, calling for an elimination of political donations from unions to politicians. Union groups spent tens of millions of dollars in an unsuccessful attempt to deny Rauner the governor’s seat in Illinois.
By: Mary Wisniewski
CHICAGO (Reuters) – In a strike against public employee unions, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner on Monday signed an order eliminating union dues for some state employees who do not want to pay to support union activities.
Rauner, a Republican and political neophyte who came into office in January, has been vocal about his problems with public labor unions and their political power. The order, which would eliminate so-called “fair share dues,” affects 6,500 state workers who are represented by a union but have chosen not to join.
“Forced union dues are a critical cog in the corrupt bargain that is crushing taxpayers,” Rauner said in a statement. “Government union bargaining and government union political activity are inexorably linked.”
The action is likely to be challenged in court. The Rauner administration said dues would be placed in escrow during the legal process.
Rauner has argued that reforms are necessary to heal the state’s financial problems. He has also proposed “empowerment zones” – areas where voters could decide if workers must join unions and pay dues.
Illinois has a chronic structural budget deficit, and the lowest credit ratings and the worst-funded pension system among the 50 states.
Rauner said he based his action on a review of the U.S. Supreme Court decision last year in Harris v. Quinn, which found that Illinois law violated the First Amendment by forcing home healthcare aides to involuntarily pay union fees.
Roberta Lynch, executive director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31, the largest public labor union for state workers, called the move “a blatantly illegal abuse of power.”
“Our union and all organized labor will stand together with those who believe in democracy to overturn Bruce Rauner’s illegal action and restore the integrity of the rule of law,” Lynch said in a statement.
“It’s a frontal assault on unions,” said Harley Shaiken, a labor expert and professor at University of California-Berkeley. “He is interpreting the Harris-Quinn opinion, which was narrowly constructed, into a broad mandate.”
Tom Balanoff, president of Service Employees International Union Illinois Council, also criticized the order.
“Rauner’s minimum wage plan would guarantee that hundreds of thousands of low wage workers in Illinois would remain below the federal poverty line through 2022,” Balanoff said in a statement.
Steve Brown, spokesman for Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, a Democrat, said Madigan has “urged Rauner to focus on near-term budget concerns.”
State Senate President John Cullerton, also a Democrat, said his legal staff is reviewing Rauner’s order.
Rauner’s anti-union rhetoric has been compared with that of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who pushed for legislation that made union fees voluntary for state workers, among other changes.
By: Kerry Lester
Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner speaks to reporters during a news conference in his office at the Illinois State Capitol Monday, Feb. 9, 2015, in Springfield, Ill. Rauner stepped up his campaign against government employee unions by eliminating so-called “fair share” dues paid by workers who don’t join a union. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman)
Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner struck a first official blow on Monday against the public sector labor unions he has frequently criticized by ordering an end to a requirement that workers pay dues even if they decide not to join a union.
His executive order sets up a fight with the state’s powerful labor unions, a key ally of members of the Democratic-led Legislature, just as Illinois has begun divided government for the first time in more than a decade. Unions immediately lashed back, while top Democrats questioned the legality of Rauner’s action and said their legal teams would review it.
Rauner, a wealthy businessman and self-described admirer of governors in Wisconsin and Indiana who’ve championed anti-union policies, said 6,500 state employees are paying so-called “fair share” dues, or an average of $577 a year per worker.
Rauner frequently criticized organized labor during his campaign for governor, saying they hinder economic growth by stifling competition and have far too much political influence in President Barack Obama’s Democratic-leaning home state.
“These forced union dues are a critical cog in the corrupt bargaining that is crushing taxpayers,” Rauner said, adding that forcing non-union employees to pay union dues requires them to fund political activity they don’t agree with.
Rauner said he took action after a U.S. Supreme Court decision last July that found state labor law violated the First Amendment by mandating home health care workers have union dues automatically deducted from their paychecks.
The order, Rauner said, would have “no impact” on employees who wish to remain paying members of the union and fund union activities out of their paychecks.
Rauner said the union dues requirement was something, “I am duty bound to correct.”
But it was unclear Monday whether Rauner was on solid legal ground, as the Supreme Court decision found certain workers didn’t have to pay “fair share dues” but upheld that requirement for “full-fledged state employees.”
Rauner said a legal team headed by a former U.S. attorney and lawyers at Chicago-based firm Winston and Strawn will handle a plan to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to declare “fair share” provisions unconstitutional.
Unions pledged to stand together to reverse the order. Rauner can be overruled by the courts, or if lawmakers can gather enough votes to override his decision. Democrats hold supermajorities in the state Legislature.
The executive order followed Rauner’s proposal last week, during his State of the State Address, for Illinois to adopt “right to work” zones around the state where communities are able to decide whether joining a union or paying union fees would be voluntary for local workers.
“This is really a smoke-screen for what the billionaire governor wants to achieve,” Tom Balanoff, President of Service Employees’ International Union Local 1 said. “He wants to bring right to work to this state. It’s going to lower peoples’ wages, lower their benefits.”
Roberta Lynch, Executive Director of AFSCME Council 31, called the executive order a “scheme” to weaken unions and strip state workers of their rights.
Some members of the Democratic-led Legislature suggested it was a distraction as Rauner grapples with an unprecedented budget crisis stemming from the expiration of the state’s income tax increase in January. The expiration of the tax increase is expected to leave the state with close to a $2 billion budget hole by the end of the fiscal year this July, and more next year, leaving key programs and services underfunded.
“I don’t understand why he wants to throw down the gauntlet on an issue like this,” said House Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie, a Chicago Democrat. “He should have enough on his plate.”
By: Monique Garcia
As Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner sets his sights on limiting the influence of unions in Illinois, he’s pushing an idea he’s dubbed “empowerment zones” — areas across the state where voters could decide if workers in their communities should be forced to join a union or pay associated dues.
It’s a variation of what is more commonly called “right to work” — rules put in place at a statewide level to prevent unions from requiring workers who decline membership to pay related fees to cover the cost of collective bargaining they still benefit from. The concept, which generally applies to private-sector unions, has gained traction among conservative politicians across the nation as states try to spur economic growth following a brutal recession that saw businesses close and tax dollars dry up.
The like-minded new governor is unlikely to get a statewide ban on forced union membership from a General Assembly firmly controlled by Democrats, who historically have relied on employee unions for support come campaign season. Empowerment zones represent a trial program on the local level.
“I’m not trying to force the whole state to go right to work, I’m not advocating that,” Rauner said Friday at a stop in Decatur. “I want local voters, I want you to be empowered to decide this issue for yourselves, in your cities and in your county. I want that everywhere in the state. And the counties that liked the status quo and liked closed shop, keep it. Terrific. Those who want to compete and recruit more manufacturing firms and transportation companies, terrific.”
Rauner views right-to-work laws as a way to make Illinois more attractive to businesses that weigh operating costs here with other states. If companies come, Rauner argues, so do jobs and the associated tax dollars to help support government. To opponents, the policy is purely an attempt to weaken unions and drive down wages. They contend such measures cause more harm than good, as workers make less money and are forced to then rely on government assistance programs.
Taken with other ideas Rauner unveiled during his State of the State speech Wednesday, empowerment zones are being seen by some as just one piece of an all-out assault on unions and Illinois Democrats. Rauner also called for a ban on political donations by unions, giving taxpayers a say in the collective bargaining process at the local level, and ending the requirement that prevailing union wages be paid to workers on state and municipal construction projects.
“I’d think if I was a public-sector worker that Governor Rauner has declared war on us,” said Tom Balanoff, president of the Service Employees International Union Illinois State Council, which represents workers who provide home health care, janitorial and maintenance services.
Rauner rejects that notion, saying he’s not “anti-union” but merely endorsing the “freedom to choose,” and that being allowed to leave a union but still having to pay dues isn’t much of a choice.
“You want to join a union? Terrific. God bless you,” Rauner said Thursday in Troy, near St. Louis. “Here’s the issue. Today in Illinois, we are closed. If there’s a union, you have join it, in government or in business. You know what? Other states don’t enforce that. And companies that want to have the flexibility to have union or not to have their employees be able to sign, they don’t come to places that enforce it.”
Rules regarding union enrollment are more nuanced than the governor lets on. Federal labor law, which applies to private-sector unions, does not require membership in a union as a condition of employment. However, because unions are legally bound to negotiate on behalf of all employees covered in the bargaining unit they represent, workers who choose not to join are still required to pay dues, or what is known as an “agency fee.” The idea is that everyone who benefits from the collective bargaining, such as through higher wages and better retirement benefits negotiated by the union, should pay their fair share of associated costs.
There are similar rules for public employee unions in Illinois. Workers can choose to join a union, but those who do not are responsible for paying a “fair share” fee. Illinois law prohibits those fees from being used to support political candidates.
The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics Statics says there 831,000 union members in Illinois as of last year, representing about 15 percent of the state’s workforce. An additional 49,000 workers were identified as having no union affiliation, but their jobs were covered by a union. It’s that population of workers who likely pay agency fees to offset collective bargaining costs but choose to reject union membership.
Rauner said, “the fair share is huge, it’s almost 100 percent or 80 percent. That’s not right.”
Those fees are at the center of the national right-to-work debate. In states that have put in place right-to-work laws, workers are no longer required to pay fees or dues to support collective bargaining efforts.
That sets up a system critics call a “free ride,” in which workers who don’t pay into the system benefit at the expense of those who do. If enough workers take the free ride, unions don’t have the financial resources to negotiate as fiercely, and their powers are weakened. Unions argue that leads to fewer rights for workers at the benefit of employers.
“You create a race to the bottom in terms of wages,” said Bill Looby, political director of the Illinois AFL-CIO. “It’s an ideology that the economy will do better if the top does better. But that’s a tired theory that hasn’t worked. If we are going to stimulate our prosperity it needs to come from the middle class.”
The impact on worker incomes and economic growth depends on the ideology of the think tank doing the study. A 2013 study by the University of Illinois declared job creation is likely somewhere in the middle, estimating right to work laws could range from a 1.2-percentage-point decrease in total employment to a 1.4-percentage-point increase in Illinois.
Two dozen states have passed right-to-work laws mostly in the South. In the Midwest, neighboring Indiana, Iowa and Michigan have such laws, and in Michigan restrictions extend to some public employee unions.
While Rauner has yet to fill in the details about his plan, the broad strokes of his proposal would allow voters in a county, municipality or other local unit of government to put a referendum on the ballot to decide “whether or not business employees should be forced to join a union or pay dues as a condition of employment.”
Attempting to put in place right-to-work laws at the local level instead of statewide also raises legal questions. Critics say it’s a violation of the Taft-Hartley Act, an update to federal employment law passed in 1947 that gave states the power to enact right-to-work laws in the first place. They point to a provision that says such restrictions can be put in place by “state or territorial law,” arguing those words forbid right-to-work measures at a county or municipal level.
“The federal law, if you read it, it’s really not ambiguous, it says territory or state, and it’s clear from the congressional record what people meant — a state like Illinois or Michigan, not a segment like Cook County,” said Bob Bruno, a labor and employment relations professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “It’s not at all clear where this is consistent with federal law, if this idea would be legal.”
Bruno said the legal ambiguity is fueled in part because only Kentucky has enacted right-to-work laws at a local level, where a handful of counties have approved such measures in recent months after a statewide effort was blocked by Democrats in the legislature.
Those moves have sparked a court challenge from unions, as well as an opinion from Democratic Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway, who also is running for governor. Conway found that “local governments have no power to enact right-to-work ordinances, as they are pre-empted by (federal law).” But proponents fought back with their own analysis from two former Kentucky Supreme Court justices — one Democrat, one Republican — saying a county does have that power, a signal that the court battle is far from over.
A Rauner aide said the governor thinks he could avoid a similar legal fight in Illinois under legislation being drafted that would “explicitly allow local voters to create empowerment zones.”
“Because there would be enabling legislation, we believe there would not be a similar legal challenge as is being pursued in Kentucky,” spokesman Lance Trover said.
Speculation about legal challenges in Illinois may be premature, though, as even supporters of Rauner’s plan acknowledge it may not survive the inevitable political battles ahead. Still, they say it’s a needed start to discussions about how to improve the state’s business climate as companies move out of state in search of a cheaper workforce.
“There’s no doubt that my friends, the leaders in organized labor, will make this a defining issue in their interactions with members of the General Assembly,” said Greg Baise, president and CEO of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association. “But I would ask my friends in organized labor what’s going so well in the current circumstances that we should protect so strongly? There’s a higher wage base, but if we year after year lose these facilities, why shouldn’t we look at these opportunities? Why shouldn’t we have this as an arrow in our quiver when we are talking to a company that wants to relocate in Illinois?”
House Speaker Michael Madigan, who chairs the state Democratic Party, offered a veiled hint of the difficult prospects ahead for Rauner’s idea last week, saying his focus is on “helping working people.”
“I think what we ought to do is to understand that organized labor represents working people. For myself, I’m very interested in helping working people. And I’m sure that almost every member of the legislature shares that view,” Madigan told Illinois Public Media. “Organized labor doesn’t represent everybody, but they do advance significant ideas before the legislature as to how we can improve the economy, help people get jobs, keep jobs, pay taxes, make a mortgage payment, pay for the education of a child.”
Tribune reporters Kim Geiger and Ray Long contributed.
CHICAGO—Leading the fight against income inequality, SEIU Local 1 announced its endorsements for the 2015 City of Chicago Aldermanic Candidates. “Each of these candidates has demonstrated they understand the needs of working families,” said Tom Balanoff, SEIU Local 1 President. “I praise Alyx Pattison for understanding middle class economics as well as the need for restoring balance, reviving neighborhoods and building an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy few.”
“Chicago’s working people have a chance to vote for an economy that works for all of us in the upcoming February election,” said Rita Young, SEIU Local 1 Executive Board member. “That’s why SEIU is proud to endorse these progressive candidates so we can work with our elected officials to eliminate the economic and social inequality that is holding our city back.”
In addition to the SEIU Illinois State Council endorsements last week (see full list below),SEIU Local 1 is pleased to endorse the following candidates:
Representing more than 30,000 workers in Illinois, SEIU Local 1 rallies behind candidates who have demonstrated strong voting records on issues important to working families such as raising the minimum wage. SEIU Local 1 represents workers including security officers, janitors, and other service workers. SEIU members are winning better wages, health care, and more secure jobs, while ensuring that workers, not just corporations and CEOs, benefit from today’s economy.
The SEIU State Council endorsed the below aldermanic candidates last week: Ald. Joe Moreno (1); Ald. Pat Dowell (3); Ald. Leslie Hairston (5); Ald Roderick Sawyer (6); Patrick Thompson (11); Ald. Toni Foulkes (16); Ald. Willie Cochran (20); Ald. Howard Brookins (21); Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22); Ald. Michael Zalewski (23); Ald. Walter Burnett (27); Ald. Jason Ervin (28); Ald. Scott Waguespack (32); Carlos Ramirez-Rosa (35); Ald. Nicholas Sposato (38); and Ald. John Arena (45).