© 2024 WNIJ and WNIU
Northern Public Radio
801 N 1st St.
DeKalb, IL 60115
Northern Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Madigan Calls Rauner 'Empowerment Zones' Illegal

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner and Democratic Attorney General Lisa Madigan disagree on the legality of localized "right-to-work" zones.

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s plan to encourage local right-to-work zones – what he calls “empowerment zones” -- around Illinois violates federal law, according to Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.

Madigan, a Democrat, issued an opinion on the issue at the request of State Sen. Gary Forby and State Rep. Jay Hoffman, both Democrats and both chair of the labor committee in their respective legislative bodies.

“ … counties and municipalities (whether home rule or non-home-rule), as well as all other political subdivisions, units of local government, and school districts of this State,  are precluded by Federal law from enacting ordinances or resolutions that limit or restrict the use of union security agreements,” according to the opinion.

“Further, current law does not authorize the creation, through the passage of a referendum, of ‘right-to-work’ zones of local areas wherein union security agreements will not be recognized.” -- Opinion by Illinois Atty. Gen. Lisa Madigan

Rauner’s office issued a statement rejecting Madigan’s opinion:

“The Rauner administration respectfully disagrees with the Attorney General’s opinion regarding local right-to-work,” according to Lance Trover, the governor’s Director of Communication. “The administration is confident that with enabling legislation from the state, local governments can create employee empowerment zones.”

Madigan’s opinion does point out that, under federal law, the only way that Illinois employees could be excused from paying so-called “fair-share” dues at organizations with unionized workforces is if a law is enacted statewide.

A second opinion issued by Madigan also says that no local governmental unit can opt out of the requirements of the Prevailing Wage Act. The attorney general referred to a ruling by the Illinois Supreme Court

Rauner repeatedly has said he doesn’t want the entire state to adopt a right-to-work law. His position is that towns and counties should make that decision on their own.

Unions traditionally have opposed right-to-work movements and have spoken out against Rauner;s plan.

Both houses of the Illinois General Assembly are controlled by Democrats, who have received much of their support in the past from organized labor.