Organized labor unions in the state of Illinois have reason to believe that trouble could be on the horizon.
According to a public opinion poll by the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, 57 percent of registered voters polled would support Right to Work legislation, with four percent leaning towards supporting it. In comparison, 33 percent would oppose the legislation.
The poll results, which surveyed the support of three major policy initiatives that are being pushed by Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, were unexpected to say the least.
“This is not a state where you’d expect people to favor Right to Work by anywhere near that margin,” said John Jackson of the Simon Institute.
Citing the decline of union membership in the state, Jackson believes many voters simply aren’t familiar with Right to Work and why unions would be against it.
It’s a sentiment that is shared among labor supporters as well.
“We’ve always maintained that our best weapon against this type of legislation is an informed public,” says Richard Dalton, business manager for the International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE) Local 18 in Ohio. “Once voters understand the motives behind Right to Work and the dangers that come with passing it, they typically agree that it’s not something they want in their state.”
With that in mind, many labor supporters are pushing for an increased awareness campaign to cut off any momentum labor opponents might have.
Despite the poll results, Illinois has traditionally been a state that strongly supports collective bargaining rights.
Just last year the state House of Representatives shot down a piece of Right to Work legislation in which not a single representative voted for the bill. In what was perceived to be a strong rejection of Governor Rauner’s agenda, every democratic member voted against the bill while most republicans voted “present” or not at all.
Right to Work laws, which are designed to diminish the strength of public and private sector unions by prohibiting the collection of mandatory union dues as a condition of employment, are viewed by labor supporters as damaging to worker rights while also leading to lower salaries, decreased benefits and inferior working conditions.
Although it remains to be seen if legislators will try to act on the recent shift in public support, it’s readily apparent that labor supporters plan to.
“When something like this happens, the labor community does an excellent job of standing together and fighting those who try to shut us down,” said Dalton. “At the end of the day, you can count on the community to keep standing firm and fighting back against any assault on workers’ rights that may come our way.”
For more information on right to work issues visit http://protectohiosmiddleclass.org/
SOURCE: Keep Ohio's Heritage
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