President's Corner


January 2021 Light at the End of the Tunnel

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After Illinois Ban on Local “Right-to-Work” Laws, Supreme Court Boots Union Busters

This morning, the United States Supreme Court ordered dismissal of an Illinois case that union busters hoped to use to allow local governments to pass “right-to-work” laws across the nation.

Local 150 and three other unions filed a lawsuit against the Village of Lincolnshire after its passage of a local “right-to-work” ordinance, and we were victorious in federal court and at the appeals court. The judges ruled that the National Labor Relations Act plainly states that only states and territories can pass “right-to-work” laws, and because Lincolnshire is neither, it did not have the authority to pass the law.

In Kentucky, however, federal judges had allowed several counties to pass county-wide “right-to-work” laws. Illinois falls within the Seventh Circuit, and Kentucky within the Sixth Circuit, and when two circuits rule differently upon the same issue – referred to as a “circuit split” – it is often taken up by the Supreme Court for clarification.

The union-busters at the Liberty Justice Center and the National Right-to-Work Foundation were using this circuit split to push the issue to the Supreme Court, which has recently been stacked with anti-union Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh. It was their belief that the Supreme Court would be in a position to legalize local “right-to-work” laws and cause chaos within states that would not pass statewide laws. If projects that spanned multiple municipalities – such as county projects or road projects that crossed city borders – were subject to two differing labor policies, the administrative burden would be massive.

When the Collective Bargaining Freedom Act, sponsored by Local 150 member Representative Lance Yednock, was passed and signed into law, it nullified Lincolnshire’s law and the lawsuit against it. This removed the circuit split and gave the Supreme Court no need to weigh in on the issue. With this development, the Supreme Court remanded the Lincolnshire lawsuit back to the Seventh Circuit with instructions to dismiss it.

Working people likely dodged a bullet by keeping this out of the highly political Supreme Court, and this news underscores the importance of having union members who understand our issues serving in the halls of government.

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