Illinois labor unions see some setbacks in Springfield legislative session – Crain’s Chicago Business

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I got first wind of what was up when the normally low-key Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce joined with the Illinois Chamber of Commerce in late May to start screaming about a pending measure they assert is so bad it could kneecap the booming data-center business, a rare Illinois success story.

As it turns out, the provision, which dealt with hiring, was only the latest in a string of provisions that got nicer and nicer for labor, moving from the arguably reasonable to the downright greedy.

The first was added to a bill in 2019 allowing the legal sale of recreational marijuana at a specified number of licensed dispensaries. The licenses are pretty much pure gold, in very hot demand. So what the labor guys did is add a provision saying that among factors the state must consider in selecting license winners is whether an applicant had signed a “labor peace agreement.” An LPA was defined as a deal in which the applicant agreed to stay out of union organizing efforts at a dispensary in exchange for a promise of no picket lines or strikes.

The bill passed. It set a pattern, a growing pattern.

This year, when a bill was introduced dealing with state tax incentives for in the chemical and oil refining business, an amendment was quickly added requiring that a growing percentage of workers in “high risk” jobs be graduates of an apprenticeship program. Almost all apprenticeship programs are run by unions. The bill passed the Senate and is awaiting final action in the House.

A little later, Rep. Bob Rita, D-Chicago, introduced a bill tweaking the state’s laws on casinos. Included was a clause requiring the Illinois Gaming Board to consider whether license applicants had signed an LPA covering not only technical positions such as building engineers but “gaming” and “hospitality” workers. In other words, pretty much anyone. And exactly what that LPA would require—other than the  union’s nod—was left a little vague.

Then came an amendment to an otherwise routine measure tweaking Pritzker’s data-center tax credit program, which the governor says has pulled in $5 billion of investment here. Sponsored by Rep. Mark Walker, D-Arlington Heights, it would require all qualifying data centers—existing and proposed—to have an LPA covering water-management and other engineering jobs within 180 days.

Walker failed to return my calls. According to the chambers, the language in the bill suggested that companies not only would have to hire members of the appropriate union, in this case International Union of Operating Engineers Local 399, but specific job candidates sent to them. In other words, a company no longer would select its workforce, even for highly technical slots.

News of the Walker amendment created an uproar. And not only among state economic-development officials but among labor itself, with members of one building-trades union upset about the potential loss of construction jobs at suddenly disappearing data centers.

IUOE hasn’t called me back. Illinois AFL-CIO President Tim Drea did. Labor’s intent here is not necessarily to mandate use of union hiring halls but to insure that, in exchange for taxpayer incentives, companies can’t get in the way of unionization efforts, he said. “No one is required to take an incentive.”

After talking to Pritzker personally about this too, it’s obvious that neither he nor Drea wants to see the data-center boom fizzle out because one union wants to pick up a few dozen jobs. 

So, the data center bill has been held for negotiation this summer, to seek a compromise. And the LPA language was stripped out of the gambling bill. But keep your eye peeled. If unions that lose most organizing votes can get lawmakers to effectively unionize workers for them, they will. And I’m sure they’ll thank lawmakers with big campaign donations.

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via “Illinois Politics” – Google News https://ift.tt/2DKMb2N

June 4, 2021 at 01:30PM

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