Illinois is completely surrounded by right-to-work states that have laws making it unlawful for companies to require union dues as a condition of employment. While the state of Illinois is unlikely to pass such legislation of its own, the Illinois village of Lincolnshire attempted to enact a right-to-work ordinance in 2015 that would have been applicable to companies and unions within its borders. Unions filed a lawsuit to have the village’s ordinance voided, and a federal judge agreed to set aside the ordinance in 2017.
Lincolnshire appealed that ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, and oral argument was heard in the case on March 27. According to reporting by Courthouse News Service, judges on the panel expressed skepticism with respect to the village’s ability to enact its own right-to-work ordinance; but no ruling on the merits was rendered. The court is expected to issue a decision in the case in the next several months.
This issue is not unique to Illinois. Before Kentucky enacted its own state-wide right-to-work law, several counties there attempted to pass their own ordinances similar to the one at issue in the pending Lincolnshire, Illinois case.
Right-to-work laws are permitted under Section 14(b) of the Taft-Hartley Act and make it unlawful for companies to require union dues as a condition of employment. In states where right-to-work laws are not enacted, most unionized employers have clauses in their labor agreements that require dues payments as a condition of employment – the clauses generally are known as “union seniority clauses.” At present, 28 states have right-to-work laws on the books. The National Right to Work Foundation maintains a current list.