Illinois lawmakers again vote to criminalize local right-to-work measures

SPRINGFIELD (Illinois News Network) — Illinois lawmakers have resurrected and are moving ahead with legislation that would make creating local right-to-work zones at the municipal level a criminal offense.

While reporters in the Capitol building were peppering Gov. J.B. Pritzker with questions about his newly-unveiled progressive tax rates, state Senators voted to send a measure to the House that would make it illegal for local governments to create right-to-work zones in their jurisdictions. Such zones allow employees to refuse union membership and still be employed.

Sponsor Ram Villivalam, D-Chicago, said the bill will support economic development, protect the quality of essential services and confirm a commitment to a highly-trained workforce.

“Local right-to-work zones have no place in the state of Illinois,” he said. “The regulation of collective bargaining should be the responsibility of state government.”

Some Republicans objected to the bill. They said the state shouldn’t take away local control.

“We ought to allow communities to make their own decision,” said state Sen. Jim Oberweis, R-Sugar Grove.

The bill, which is similar to one Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed in 2017, says any local official who supports a right-to-work zone will be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. That carries a sentence of up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $5,000.

The bill passed with bipartisan support and now sits in the House to be heard.

It would only affect private-sector workers because a U.S. Supreme Court decision last summer prohibited public workers from being required to pay into a union as a condition of employment.

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