Despite a law signed Friday to have the state dictate collective bargaining policy to local governments, the U.S. Supreme Court could take up the issue of so-called right-to-work zones.

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court Case case from Illinois – Janus v. AFSCME – ruled public employees can’t be forced to pay union fees as a condition of employment. Before that, the village of Lincolnshire Illinois passed an ordinance giving that freedom to all workers, including in the private sector, in its jurisdiction.

Lawmakers last session passed the Collective Bargaining Freedom Act, but former Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed the measure. Rauner said local jurisdictions should be allowed to pass such measures to help shore up costs.

Lawmakers this session quickly passed the measure again, but excluded criminal penalties for local officials that pass such local zones. Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed it into law Friday. He said the law merely codifies that the state will be the decider on labor policy, not local governments.

“From the start, right to work was an idea cooked up to lower wages, slash benefits and hurt our working families,” Pritzker said. “Right to work has always meant right to work for less money.”

But Liberty Justice Center Senior Attorney Jeffrey Schwab, who represents Lincolnshire in a case they’ve requested the nation’s high court take up, says right to work doesn’t ban collective bargaining.

“It just makes unions have to get voluntary consent from employees, rather than forcing them to join and pay them,” Schwab said. “It’s disappointing that even though Illinois doesn’t want to pass a statewide right to work that it’s prohibiting its local units of government from doing so.”

Schwab has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to take up Lincolnshire’s case on appeal. Pritzker said he doubts that will change anything now that local right to work is banned in Illinois.

“This bill actually just establishes what is the law today, so I believe that that would be moot essentially at the [U.S.] Supreme Court,” Pritzker said.

Schwab said they’re still waiting to see how the new law will impact the lawsuit.

Staff Writer

Greg Bishop reports on Illinois government and other statewide issues for Illinois News Network and Watchdog.org. Bishop has years of award-winning broadcast experience, and previously hosted “Bishop On Air,” a morning-drive current events talk show.