4 unions sue Lincolnshire over right-to-work ordinance

Four labor groups have sued Lincolnshire and key village officials over the town's controversial right-to-work ordinance, which critics have blasted as anti-union.

Unions representing engineers, construction workers and carpenters - including three affiliated with the AFL-CIO - filed the suit Feb. 18 in federal court in Chicago. They're seeking to have the ordinance declared invalid and to prevent its enforcement.

The ordinance allows employees at private-sector companies in Lincolnshire to refuse to have union dues or fees automatically deducted from their paychecks.

Right-to-work zones were a major tenet of Gov. Bruce Rauner's controversial Turnaround Agenda for Illinois, but Lincolnshire is the only town in the Chicago area to adopt such an ordinance.

In a formal opinion issued last year, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan said federal labor law allows such policies to be enacted only on a statewide basis.

Additionally, a federal judge recently ruled right-to-work laws established by counties in Kentucky were illegal.

However, Lincolnshire officials disregarded Madigan's opinion and overwhelming public opposition, and adopted the plan in December. The village, Mayor Elizabeth Brandt, Police Chief Peter Kinsey and Village Clerk Barbara Mastandrea are named as defendants in the lawsuit.

When asked about the suit Monday, Brandt said the village hadn't yet received the complaint.

The unions filing the lawsuit were:

The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 399, AFL-CIO.

The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150, AFL-CIO.

The Construction and General Laborers District Council of Chicago and Vicinity, Laborers' International Union of North America, AFL-CIO.

The Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters, United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America.

The unions claim the ordinance violates the National Labor Relations Act and the Labor Management Relations Act by prohibiting union hiring agreements and payroll deductions for union dues and fees.

Local 150 spokesman Ed Maher criticized Lincolnshire officials for having "blatant disregard" for federal law in the matter.

"Lincolnshire has absolutely no authorities to pass an ordinance like this," Maher said. "We're looking forward to seeing this in court."

Lawyers from the Liberty Justice Center - a group associated with a nonprofit organization called the Illinois Policy Institute that has championed right-to-work legislation - have offered to represent the village pro bono.

"No one should be forced to pay money to an organization just to keep their job," said Jacob Huebert, the center's senior attorney. "The village acted within its powers when it passed an ordinance to protect workers' freedom to choose who they give their money to."

Lincolnshire was among the few towns in the North or Northwest suburbs to endorse Rauner's overall Turnaround Agenda after he lobbied for it across the state last year. Most communities rejected the agenda - which also calls for minimum wage reform, tax freezes, political term limits, lawsuit reforms and other changes - or ignored it.

Officials in several suburbs said the issues should be addressed in the state Capitol, not village boardrooms.

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