Illinois legislature approves changes to state public-sector labor relations law

On Nov. 13, the Illinois Senate voted 45-9 to approve SB1784, a bill that would make a series of changes to the state’s existing public-sector labor relations laws. The House approved the bill 93-23 on Oct. 29. The bill now goes to Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D), who has not indicated whether he plans to sign it.

  • What does the bill propose? As originally introduced on Feb. 16, SB1784 did not have any bearing on public-sector unions. Instead, it dealt with state government ethics. The House amended the bill to make the following changes to the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act and the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act:
    • Require public employers to furnish unions with a complete list of the names and addresses of the public-sector workers in their bargaining units.
    • Prohibit employers from discouraging employees from participating in unions.
    • Permits union representatives to meet with new employees during working hours.
    • Permits unions to limit the time periods during which members can resign or rescind their dues deductions.
    • Declares that public employers and public-sector unions cannot be held liable for claims involving the payment of dues or agency fees before June 27, 2018, when the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Janus v. AFSCME.
      • In Janus, the high court held that compelling workers to pay dues or fees to a union violates workers’ First Amendment rights.
  • What are the reactions?
    • Rep. Jay Hoffmann (D), who voted in favor of the bill, said, “This is an attempt to restore employee rights and lay out what public employers in Illinois can and cannot do with regard to union representation and an employee joining a union. This does not overturn the Janus decision, this is post-Janus.”
    • Joe Tabor, a policy analyst for Illinois Policy, said, “Public employees are ill-served by SB1784, which would restrict the exercise of their constitutional rights to distance themselves from unions and their politics. It would empower unions to indoctrinate new employees and call workers’ cell phones. It tries to legislate after the fact by stopping litigation to recover workers’ money that should never have been taken from them, which is sure to draw court challenges.”
  • Also in Illinois …
    • On Nov. 12, Judge Sharon Coleman, of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, upheld a state law requiring that a union represent all the employees within its bargaining unit, including those who are not dues-paying members. Plaintiffs James Sweeney and the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 150, had alleged that this requirement violated their First Amendment rights. Coleman rejected this argument, citing a recent ruling in which the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit found that “unions designated as exclusive representatives were (and still are) obligated to represent all employees, union members or not, ‘fairly, equitably, and in good faith.’” Coleman was appointed to the court by President Barack Obama (D).

The big picture

Number of relevant bills by state

We are currently tracking 106 pieces of legislation dealing with public-sector employee union policy. On the map below, a darker shade of green indicates a greater number of relevant bills. Click here for a complete list of all the bills we’re tracking.

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Number of relevant bills by current legislative status

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Number of relevant bills by partisan status of sponsor(s)

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Recent legislative actions

Below is a complete list of legislative actions taken since our last issue. Bills are listed in alphabetical order, first by state then by bill number.

  • Illinois SB1784: This bill would require that public-sector union representatives be granted an opportunity to meet with new hires. It would require employers to furnish unions with worker information, including addresses, contact numbers, and email addresses. It would also permit unions to limit the period during which members can resign and rescind dues deduction authorizations.
    • Senate approved Nov. 13.