Oswego Takes Center Stage in Right-to-Work Fight
Mar 31, 2015 09:32PM ● Published by Steven Jack
Dozens of union members packed the Oswego Village Board Room Tuesday night to speak out against Gov. Bruce Rauner's Turnaround Agenda resolution under consideration by the trustees.
Oswego Village Hall became the focal point Tuesday night of a statewide debate over local right- to-work zones.
Dozens of local union members appeared at the Village Board meeting to voice their displeasure over the village’s consideration of a Gov. Bruce Rauner Turnaround Agenda resolution. Rauner's agenda, in part, calls for the establishment of local right-to-work zones, which would allow local voters to decide if workers should be compelled to join unions or pay union dues.
Without the collection of dues from members, unions could not pay for legal representation and consultation during collective bargaining negotiations, union officials have said.
Village President Brian LeClercq addressed the packed room, saying the Village Board would not vote on the Turnaround Agenda resolution given to the village from the Illinois Municipal League through Rauner’s office.
“There is no intention whatsoever to pass this resolution,” LeClercq said.
The resolution was put before the Village Board as a matter of information and for trustees to consider and provide feedback to the governor’s office in the coming weeks, LeClercq said.
LeClercq’s words did not quell the local union workers and representatives who went on to speak out during public comment. They argued that right-to-work zones will lead to lower wages and benefits, increased workplace fatalities and an emergence of unskilled labor.
“To turn Oswego into a right-to-work zone sends a clear message to the working people of this community: your rights do not matter. Your ability to raise your family in a decent house with a decent paycheck doesn’t matter. The ability to pay for health care costs when someone gets sick doesn’t matter. Your future doesn’t matter. Only cheap labor and profit matter,” said Brian Fauth, a 17-year veteran of Oswego School District 308 and member of the Oswego Education Association. “The people who work in Oswego deserve better.”
Many speakers also cited Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s March 20 written opinion that right-to-work zones are illegal and circumvent federal labor laws. One of those was Democratic U.S. Rep. Bill Foster.
“These are state issues and federal issues,” Foster said. “Communities can’t opt out of (federal labor) laws anymore than they can opt out of civil rights laws or similar laws.”
Village President candidates weigh in
How Rauner’s Turnaround Agenda may play out in Oswego could be determined by the outcome of the Tuesday, April 7, municipal election. During his public statement, Ken Edwards, an attorney from The International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 150, demanded to know where village candidates stand on the issue.
While the board did not discuss right-to-work zones after its public comment, Village President candidates Tony Giles and Gail Johnson did address the matter after the meeting.
“I believe this is a state issue, and I believe in the Attorney General’s ruling. We need to address this as a state,” Johnson said. “I don’t think Oswego should be a test case for this. I think we’ve gone down the road before of trying to go around state statute with a resolution, and we lost. We spent too much money. I don’t want Oswego known as a place for test cases to fight state law.”
Giles also said a right-to-work zone isn't appropriate for Oswego.
“I’m a proud member of the Illinois Education Association and the Oswego Education Association,” Giles said. “I don’t see anything in what I’ve been presented so far that a right-to-work area for Oswego would be a good idea. The legalities also have to be worked out. … But I think if it’s something the Village Board wants to discuss, it’s something we should discuss just like any other issue.”