In December 2015, the village of Lincolnshire, Illinois, became the first municipality in the state – and one of the first local governments in the U.S. – to enact a local “Right-to-Work” ordinance. The law guarantees that no private-sector worker in Lincolnshire will be forced to pay dues or fees to a union as a condition of employment.
Commonly, states have enacted Right-to-Work laws on a statewide basis. Currently, 28 states, including all of Illinois’ neighbors, have Right-to-Work laws that apply statewide.
But there’s no reason why local governments can’t enact Right-to-Work laws for their local jurisdictions, if state law allows. And in Illinois, state law doesn’t stand in the way of “home rule” municipal governments that believe a local Right-to-Work law would help make their communities more attractive places to do business.
But after Lincolnshire passed its ordinance, a group of unions sued the village in federal court, arguing that the National Labor Relations Act only allows Right-to-Work laws to be enacted on a statewide basis, not locally.
The Liberty Justice Center is defending Lincolnshire’s ordinance against the unions’ lawsuit. In fact, nothing in federal law prohibits local governments from enacting Right-to-Work laws. And unless federal law clearly says otherwise – which, here, it doesn’t – states should be allowed to decide for themselves whether to exercise their powers centrally or through subdivisions such as local governments.
If Lincolnshire’s law is upheld, it’s likely that more Illinois municipalities will enact their own Right-to-Work ordinances, creating pockets of worker freedom in a state that has often given union political privileges priority over individual rights.
Village of Lincolnshire's Seventh Circuit brief (May 8, 2017)
Unions' Seventh Circuit brief (June 29, 2017)
Unions' Seventh Circuit Reply Brief (August 9, 2017)
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