Lincolnshire creates right-to-work zone that unions oppose

 
 
Updated 12/15/2015 7:11 AM
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  • Tim O'Shea of Evergreen Park, center, and other labor union members fill the boardroom at Lincolnshire's village hall Monday to hear a debate about right-to-work zones, which some criticize as anti-union.

      Tim O'Shea of Evergreen Park, center, and other labor union members fill the boardroom at Lincolnshire's village hall Monday to hear a debate about right-to-work zones, which some criticize as anti-union. Russell Lissau | Staff Photographer

  • Former Lincolnshire Mayor Brett Blomberg speaks in favor of the right-to-work proposal at Monday night's village board meeting.

      Former Lincolnshire Mayor Brett Blomberg speaks in favor of the right-to-work proposal at Monday night's village board meeting. Russell Lissau | Staff Photographer

Lincolnshire has become the first town in the Chicago area to establish itself as a right-to-work zone, a move critics have assailed as anti-union.

It's also a move experts say is sure to face a legal challenge.

To create the zone, the village board approved an ordinance preventing local employers from requiring workers to pay union dues with payroll deductions.

That proposal was a major tenet of Gov. Bruce Rauner's controversial Turnaround Agenda for Illinois, which many people have blasted as being anti-union.

Elements of the Turnaround Agenda -- especially the right-to-work proposal -- have been criticized as unconstitutional, too.

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

But that didn't stop Lincolnshire's village board Monday, which quickly approved the plan after listening to an hour of public comments.

Trustee Mara Grujanac cast the lone dissenting vote after saying the policy didn't belong in Lincolnshire. None of the five trustees who voted for the plan commented.

More than 100 people -- many wearing shirts or jackets identifying the labor union to which they belong -- crammed into the boardroom at village hall for the vote. Many more people listened from the hallway and in a second room set up for the occasion.

Opponents vastly outnumbered supporters.

"This is union busting," Chicago resident and union organizer Ken Edwards told the board. "You the trustees are being used. The 1 percent are using you to get to us."

Lincolnshire resident Sandy Saltier asked why the board members "are wasting village resources on this," She accused the board of approving the plan to "curry favor with the governor."

A few people spoke in favor of the plan. Among them was Ted Dabrowski, vice president and spokesman for the Illinois Policy Institute, a group that has promoted right-to-work legislation.

"This isn't about unions," said Dabrowski, whose group created a model ordinance Lincolnshire officials used to draft their own. "It's about individual freedoms. It's also about the right to not join a union."

The audience emptied out of the boardroom after the vote. Shouts of "shame on you" and "boycott" could be heard.

Lincolnshire's ordinance applies only to private companies, not school districts or other government agencies. It was championed locally by Mayor Elizabeth Brandt, a vocal proponent of Rauner's Turnaround Agenda.

Lincolnshire was one of the few towns in the North or Northwest suburbs to formally endorse Rauner's Turnaround Agenda -- which also calls for minimum wage reform, tax freezes, political term limits, lawsuit reforms and other proposals -- this past spring. Rauner said the policies would give people more control over their lives.

But most village boards and city councils -- including those in Mundelein, Libertyville, Wauconda and Vernon Hills -- formally rejected the proposal, opted not to vote after discussing the matter or chose to ignore it.

Many officials said the issues should be handled at the state level, not local. They also voiced concern about the legality of the proposals, especially after Madigan issued her opinion.

Even the Illinois Policy Institute has said towns that create right-to-work zones should expect lawsuits.

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