Hoffman: Continued “No-Show” of Governor’s Agency Directors is Unacceptable

Illinois State Rep. Jay Hoffman called a Wednesday, July 8, 2015, hearing on reforms to Illinois’ workers’ compensation system and expected to hear from an official in Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration about the status of the system – an issue Rauner has stated is a priority. Instead, the public got the cold shoulder from Rauner, who again rejected transparency and an airing of issues the governor himself considers important.

“The ongoing secrecy from the governor and his administration has got to stop. It’s unfair to the taxpayers and constituents we serve who deserve a public discussion on issues that affect so many families,” Hoffman said. “We asked the governor’s administration to give us details of a report it issued on Illinois’ workers’ compensation system, but nobody showed. The governor has specifically said this issue must be addressed to his satisfaction before he will even discuss the budget. For no one to show up to discuss the issue is unacceptable.”

“The governor is using individuals who rely on the state, including the elderly, victims of child abuse and the developmentally disabled, to pass his extreme agenda. Then his administration does not even show up to discuss part of his agenda,” Hoffman added.

Hoffman, chair of the House Labor and Commerce Committee, invited Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission chair Joann Fratianni to a hearing to discuss the agency’s Fiscal Year 2014 report, issued on June 16. Neither Fratianni nor a designee from her office attended the hearing.

In the commission report’s opening letter, Fratianni informs Rauner that workers’ compensation costs in Illinois are declining, with insurers reporting a 19 percent decrease in benefit payments over the last four years. The letter also cites a study noting Illinois saw the largest savings on workers’ compensation insurance and the largest decrease in medical payments per claim.

“It baffles me why we can’t get cooperation from the governor or his administration and discuss a public report,” Hoffman said. “Studies seem to show that Illinois is making important strides toward reducing workers’ compensation costs, yet employers tell us they have yet to realize savings. We need to know why. I agree that we must reduce costs for employers, but any plan that has the potential effect of ruining workers’ lives and leaving them with little or nothing to get by when they are unable to work would only worsen Illinois’ economic challenges and endanger middle-class families.”

Wednesday’s hearing marked the seventh time in the last month Rauner or administration officials have failed to provide information to the public on a number of issues, including salaries given to highly paid administration staff.


Fast Track Call-In Day June 3, 2015

There will be a vote on Fast Track soon.  Proponents of Fast Track want to move the bill as fast as possible to stop the growth of opposition to it.  It is important that we keep in contact with Members of Congress so they fully understand our opposition to Fast Track.  On June 3, 2015, there will be a national call-in day to derail Fast Track and we are asking our members to participate.

Granting the President Fast Track authority would assure passage of the Trans-Pacific Partnership without the ability to amend any portion of it.  The TPP would accelerate the global race to the bottom that previous trade agreements have initiated.  It is imperative that we continue working to defeat Fast Track.

If the vote were held today, Fast Track would not pass.  However, the President, his cabinet, republican leadership, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and business interests are working frantically to gain votes for Fast Track.  We must double our efforts by participating in the June 3 call-in.

On June 3, please call your Representative at 888-804-8311 and urge them to vote "NO" on Fast Track!


Energy Bills Pass

A series of bills for utilities and energy companies began moving through the legislative process this week. None of them appear to be in their final form, and will more than likely all be placed into one bill at a later time.

The renewable energy groups passed SB 1485 (Harmon) out of Senate Environment and Conservation Committee 7-1-1.

The legislation sets out to strengthen our energy efficiency policies to maximize the potential for cost-effectively saving energy in buildings and plants in every part of the state; updating and extending our renewable portfolio standard to enable solar and wind energy projects to flourish; and directing the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to develop a market-based approach to compliance with federal carbon rules to ensure that we’re allowing market forces to find the most cost-effective emission reduction strategies.

Exelon is seeking changes in the form of SB 1585 (Hunter).  It passed Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee 19-0-0. It is a market-based plan that will increase Illinois’ renewable energy sources, while maintaining existing low carbon energy sources, such as nuclear power. It is the hope of supporters, that this would make Illinois a national leader with the highest requirement of low carbon energy in the nation and will help keep valuable nuclear power plants in operation.


Right-To-Work

TO: ALL MEMBERS

RE: Right to Work

Local 51 Brothers and Sisters:

Governor Rauner has made attacking all Unions in the State of Illinois a part of his agenda.  Right to Work legislation has been introduced in the Illinois House. 

If you want to participate in fighting for working people a plan of action for each of you to consider is contacting your State Senator and Representative.  We have attached a list of General Assembly members who cover most all of the areas Local 51 members reside in.  We have enclosed talking points and information you may want to utilize when contacting a legislator.

We do ask that you keep a list of each legislator or district office that you make contact with.  If the Senator or Representative or their office provides feedback please note that on your list.

This is the biggest challenge Unions in Illinois have ever experienced.  Hopefully many of you will join the fight to stop Right to Work in Illinois.

In Unity,
Jim Bates
Business Manager


Talking Points and Directions for Contacting Legislators on Right to Work

  • Each Local 51 member has one Senator and one State Representative, so only two (2) calls will be needed, but we encourage family members to make a separate call.

  • Introduce yourself, including where you live.

  • Ask for the legislator by title and name, i.e. Senator Johnson or Representative Smith.

  • Be polite but firm on the issues, thank anyone you speak with.

  • If the legislator is not available ask the office person to take your message and pass it on to the legislator; leaving a voice message is a last resort but acceptable.

  • The issues to be addressed are:

    • Right to Work including RTW zones and Fair Share elimination.

    • Payroll check off for voluntary political contributions.
       

  • The positions are: 1) you oppose any form of Right to Work legislation because it is bad for working people and ask the legislator to vote against it, and 2) you oppose any form of legislation limiting voluntary payroll check off for political contributions; if unions cannot be allowed to collectively raise funds for political action the already unleveled playing field will only tilt more in the favor of corporations and anti-union forces like the Koch Brothers.  Ask the legislator or his office person if they will oppose Right to Work and limits on voluntary payroll check off for political contributions.

  • If questions are asked of you use the information we provided to help you answer.

  • Please keep a record of each legislator or legislative office you make contact with. Make a note of any feedback provided by the legislator or their office.

  • When all calls are completed please email, text, or call your Local 51 Business Representative to report your results. 


AFL-CIO Position on Right To Work Laws

AFL-CIO Position:  Oppose any legislation seeking to make Illinois a “Right-to-Work” state or to allow for local “Right-to-Work” zones.  Oppose any legislation seeking to ban Fair Share fees in the public sector.

  • The term “right to work” is a misnomer that has little to do with the right of a person to seek and accept gainful employment.  It does not give anyone an actual right-to-work.  Instead it makes it harder for workers to have a union in their workplace.
  •  “Right to work” laws set up a welfare system by which people don’t have to pay for the benefits of union representation that they receive.  It prohibits a labor union from negotiating union security clauses with an employer.  Union security clauses and fair share fees ensure that everyone in a union-represented workplace contributes to the cost of the union’s activities from which they benefit.  Otherwise workers who pay their dues are forced to “subsidize” those workers who don’t.
  • Banning Fair Share fees in the public sector has the same impact on public employees as “Right-to-Work” laws have on private sector workers.  In both cases, non-members can refuse to contribute anything toward the cost of the union representation from which they benefit.  The intent is not to help workers, but rather to weaken unions and prevent workers from coming together to improve their lives.
  • Unions help to raise the standard of living for all workers.  When unions are weakened and their ranks reduce, all workers suffer.  The quality of life is worse in right to work states.  Wages are lower, poverty levels are higher, people are less likely to have health insurance, and resources for education are lower.
    • On average, workers in states with right to work laws make $5,971 (12.2 percent) less annually than workers in other states. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)
    • Poverty rates are higher in states with “right to work” laws (14.8 percent overall and 20.2 percent for children), compared with poverty rates of 13.1 percent overall and 18.3 percent for children in states without these laws. (US Census Bureau)
  • In a report from the University of Illinois on right to work – “Right to Work has an obvious negative impact on union membership.  Additionally, for female, African-American, and Latino workers, right to work tends to have negative impacts on real hourly wages.  It would remove structures that reduce racial and gender inequality.”

  • In January, Moody’s released an economic report for the State of Illinois.  It stated “Also debatable is whether right-to-work laws enhance economic growth even in circumstances where they do help attract businesses to a state. Since laws that hurt unions shift the balance of power from employees to owners, they tend to erode wages and lead to a more uneven distribution of the gains of economic growth.”

  • As Moody’s correctly points out, passing Right-to-Work laws or banning Fair Share fees has one goal—shifting the balance of power away from workers and to employers.  Laws are already in place allowing workers the freedom to choose whether to join a union. Unions are in workplaces because a majority of those workers have chosen union representation.  Whether or not they support the union, all workers in the workplace benefit from the gains the union makes and the rights that the union establishes.

  • From the University of Illinois report:  “When isolated and measured against other job creation variables, right to work has no proven record of stimulating meaningful economic growth.  By comparison, Illinois would reap far greater economic benefits by increasing its investment in education and skilled-based training.”

  • Other findings from the University of Illinois policy brief, if a right to work law passed in Illinois:

    • Employment would increase by a very small 0.4 to 0.55 percent, but this increase may cease over a few years.

    • Hourly wages of African-American workers would drop by 2-9 percent over time.

    • Hourly wages of Hispanic workers could drop by as much as 8 percent over time.

    • Hourly wages of women would fall by 2-7 percent over time.

    • Approximately 107 additional Illinois workers would lose their lives due to work-related injuries in the construction sector over 10 years.  The rate of workplace deaths is 54.4 percent higher in states with right to work laws (BLS).

    • After the third year of adoption, the five-year reduction in state income tax revenues would be between $1.4 billion and $1.6 billion.

  • Right to Work laws are just another way for corporations to knock the bottom rung off the economic ladder that people use to climb out of poverty to the middle class.