Legislation to stifle right-to-work laws 'undemocratic,' labor expert says
Mailee Smith says she’s studied thousands of criminal bills and still hasn’t found one quite like Senate Bill 1905.
“It is definitely undemocratic,” Smith, staff attorney and labor expert at Illinois Policy Institute, said during a recent appearance on "Chicago's Morning Answer" radio program on WIND co-hosted by Dan Proft, a principal in Local Government Information Services, which owns this publication.
When a business is looking to move "they look to see if a state is right-to-work, having no statewide right-to-work we don’t have a way to compete,” Smith said.
It’s why Smith can’t comprehend the attempt to override Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of SB1905, the law that goes as far as to make enactment of the right-to-work policy now in effect in 27 other states a criminal offense for local government leaders. The override failed by a single vote in the House, with one member of the House electing to vote present.
Smith argues that right-to-work laws, which absolve workers of being required to pay union dues in order to keep their jobs, help to attract businesses and foster a far more pro-growth business environment.
Debate over the bill will almost certainly persist, but Smith laments she doesn’t know how much things really have a chance of changing anytime soon.
Smith pointed to carmakers Toyota and Mazda’s recent decision to eliminate Illinois from consideration for a new plant that could have meant 4,000 new jobs for the area as evidence of the impact rejection of right-to-work is having across the state.
Crain Chicago Business has since reported groundbreaking on the $1.6 billion facility will almost certainly take place in a right-to-work state.
Just two years prior, Crain’s reported that the former director of Illinois’ Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity claimed that more than 1,100 companies had “blacklisted” Illinois from their list of possible destinations based on its stance on right-to-work laws.
That same year, two out of every three global chief financial officers polled in a CNBC survey agreed a right-to-work law is either “important” or “very important” when deciding where to grow their businesses.
Currently, every neighboring state other than Missouri has right-to-work laws on the books, and the difference it has made has been palatable. According to the institute, since 2010, Illinois has lost 1,740 manufacturing jobs, while Indiana, Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin, all right-to-work states, have gained an average of nearly 65,000 manufacturing jobs.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis adds that during the recession alone, Illinois lost more than 96,000 manufacturing jobs.
Meanwhile, state Rep. Marty Moylan (D-Des Plaines) filed a separate bill that would remove the criminal language from SB1905. Violators of SB1905 laws could face either a year behind bars or a fine of up to $2,500.
“That’s how entrenched some lawmakers are in their anti-right-to-work stance,” Smith wrote in a recent Illinois Policy article. “They would rather eschew American democratic values – and ignore their constituents – than allow local leaders to consider an economic policy with which they disagree.”