Illinois Outlaws Local Worker Freedom Laws

Employers in Illinois really didn’t need another reason to bypass or move out of the state, but the legislature gave them one. On October 24, 2017, state senators voted to override Governor Bruce Rauner’s veto of legislation that would prohibit local right-to-work laws.

Right-to-work laws  give workers the freedom to opt out of paying dues to a union they do not support. It is commonsense policy that has been adopted in a majority of states, including all of Illinois’ neighbors. Many businesses consider a state’s right-to-work status when deciding where to locate a new facility. Research from the Competitive Enterprise Institute finds that Illinois was in the top 10 states negatively affected from failing to adopt right-to-work legislation. Individuals in Illinois have lost an estimated $3,640 in income over a 30-year period from not having a right-to-work law.

Allowing individual cities and counties to adopt right-to-work ordinances would not act as a panacea for all Illinois’ woes, but it would be a great step toward reversing the state’s economic decline.

An area of concern for Illinois is a mass exodus of people from the state. Bill Roberts, a former resident of Illinois until his employer relocated from Bedford Park, Illinois to East Chicago, Indiana, said, “I make more money and everything is cheaper.” He is not the only Illinoisan who feels that way.

The Illinois Policy Institute finds that from 2015 to 2016, “Illinois lost 114,000 people on net to other states, the worst level of out-migration the state has ever experienced.” People take their incomes with them when they leave. After Illinois last implemented a tax hike in 2011, more than $14 billion of annual adjusted gross income fled the state. With recent tax hikes on personal and corporate income in Illinois, it is almost a certainty more people will leave.

This is an area where permitting local right-to-work ordinances could have helped stem the tide of people leaving the state. During 2000-2009, more than 4.9 million native-born Americans moved from non-right-to-work to right-to-work states—an average of more than 1,450 persons per day.

As noted, employers prefer to locate to jurisdictions with right-to-work laws. Over the past decade, large and mid-sized companies have left Illinois in droves, including Office Depot, Hoist Lift Trucks, Superior Truss and Panels, Illini Hi-Reach, Kenall, De-Sta-Co, and Mitsubishi Motors. Other Illinois employers have significantly cut their workforces in the state.

Many of these job creators cite Illinois’ unfriendly business climate for the move. Allowing cities and counties to enact Right-to-Work laws would have made the localities’ business climate more attractive to job creators. Unfortunately, the Illinois legislature does not seem to understand that raising taxes and prohibiting worker freedom is bad for business.