Illinois legislature Democrats vow to protect workers

From the Will County Labor Record, The St. Louis Labor Tribune and Press Associates:

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (PAI) – Come hell, high water, and a Republican multi-millionaire businessman now inhabiting the governor’s mansion in Springfield, the Democrats who still control the Illinois legislature vow to continue to protect working families.

And the first scheme they plan to stop is any Republican effort to impose a so-called “right to work” law in the Land of Lincoln – President Obama’s home state.

New GOP Gov. Bruce Rauner hasn’t unveiled any specifics in his State of the State address, but right wing Republicans jammed right-to-work laws through other states’ legislatures, including neighboring Indiana and Michigan, that fell to the GOP in the 2010 off-year election and that remain under Republican domination.

And many of Missouri’s ruling Republican lawmakers want to enact a similar measure there, either over Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto or as a constitutional amendment. Right-to-work laws ban unions from negotiating contracts that include mandatory dues collection.

RTW laws let “free riders” use union services – such as grievances and worker protections – without paying for them, depriving the unions of income they need to provide the services and defend workers at all. And that’s RTW advocates’ real goal: Destroying unions.

Leaders of the state Senate Labor Committee won’t let that happen. Sen. Gary Forby, D-Benton, the committee chair, said unions built Illinois’ middle class. “They ensure working men and women receive an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work. I don’t understand why some politicians push so hard to take that away.

Added Sen. Linda Holmes, D-Aurora, the committee vice chair: “Unions built our middle class by fighting for the five-day, 40-hour workweek and other basic protections. I will vehemently oppose any legislation that would cripple labor unions and hurt working families.” Other Democrats joined their statement.

“Collective bargaining made America and the middle class strong, but the middle class has taken it on the chin in recent decades. Adopting right-to-work in Illinois would be the final blow. I’m not going to let that happen,” State Sen. Pat McGuire, D-Joliet, vowed.

And State Sen. Toi Hutchinson, a south suburban Democrat whose district hugs the Indiana border, said anti-union laws being considered in Wisconsin and Missouri are a step in the wrong direction. “Union-busting legislation is not progress. It only serves to suppress workers’ rights,” Hutchinson said.

Studies also show workers in RTW states are at greater risk of on-the-job injuries and illnesses. And a recent study by two professors at the University of Illinois (The economic effect of adopting a right-to-work law: implications for Illinois) shows RTW would have cost Illinois money: $440 million more in expenses for food stamps and other government aid had the law been in effect in 2013, due to lower pay and lost worker protections.

Photo: Supporters of legislation to raise the minimum wage in Illinois rally outside the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield Ill.  |  Seth Perlman/AP



Press Associates Union News Service provides national coverage of news affecting workers, including activism, politics, economics, legislation in Congress and actions by the White House, federal agencies and the courts that affect working people. Mark Gruenberg is Editor in chief and owner of Press Associates Union News Service, Washington, D.C.