Bucking the Right-to-Work Trend, Illinois Passes Ban on Right-to-Work Zones

On April 12, 2019, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker (D) signed legislation effectively banning local governments from passing right-to-work ordinances.  Public Act 101-0003, titled the “Collective Bargaining Freedom Act,” prohibits local governments from passing ordinances barring employers and labor organizations from entering into collective bargaining agreements that require workers to join unions or pay dues.  The law took effect immediately.

Public Act 101-0003 should have minimal practical effect on employers with an Illinois workforce, as union security and dues-checkoff clauses remain a mandatory subject of bargaining under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).  Rather, the passage of the Act appears to be a political statement signaling the return of a progressive agenda in Illinois following Governor Bruce Rauner’s term. Indeed, Governor Pritzker stated that the legislation “makes it abundantly clear that we have turned the page here in Illinois.”1

The Act is consistent with the ruling by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in International Union of Operating Engineers Local 399 et al. v. Village of Lincolnshire et al., 905 F.3d 995 (7th Cir. 2018), which held that while the NLRA permits individual states to pass right-to-work laws, it does not permit states to pass that responsibility on to local governments. The Village of Lincolnshire has appealed the decision to the United States Supreme Court, taking the position that local governments have the right to restrict dues collection and union security agreements between unions and employers. The Supreme Court has yet to decide if it will hear the case.

The scope and reach of right-to-work laws continue to be points of contention in other states as well For example, the Seventh Circuit held in International Association of Machinists District Ten and Local Lodge 873 v. Allen et al., 904 F.3d 490 (7th Cir. 2018) that Wisconsin’s right-to-work law overreached, by providing for a 30-day revocation period for dues-checkoff authorizations. The court held that this topic—the length of dues-checkoff revocation periods—is preempted by federal law and must be decided by the parties to a collective bargaining agreement. On the other hand, the National Labor Relations Board reached a contradictory conclusion in its recent decision in Metalcraft of Mayville Inc. and District Lodge No. 10, 367 NLRB No. 116 (Apr. 17, 2019). There, the Board ruled that the employer did not violate the NLRA by ceasing dues collection in accordance with the 30-day revocation timeframe permitted by the Wisconsin law, rather than the revocation period set forth in the parties’ collective bargaining agreement.2 The NLRB found that Wisconsin’s right-to-work law voided the union security language in the parties’ collective bargaining agreement, and thus also voided the dues-checkoff provisions.

These cases, along with Public Act 101-0003, are part of a broader, ideological conflict that is playing out in statehouses, city councils, courts, and administrative agencies around the country regarding the extent to which states and local governments may restrict collective bargaining. While there is no action that employers must take in response to Public Act 101-0003, Littler will continue to monitor these important issues and keep you fully apprised of relevant developments.

See Footnotes

2 The Board recognized that the Seventh Circuit held that the Wisconsin statute was preempted by federal law. But the Board stated that the Seventh Circuit decision issued after the events at issue in Metalcraft, and that other courts have found the argument that states have authority to regulate checkoff authorizations to be “at least colorable.”

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.