Todd Maisch, president and CEO of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, discusses Illinois’ neighboring “right-to-work” states. Photo by Lee Milner.

By Monica Stabile

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens signed legislation on Monday making Missouri the 28th right-to-work state, ending mandatory union membership and fees for workers. With Missouri the latest state to adopt a right-to-work zone, Illinois is now surrounded by right-to-work neighbors. However, a surprising voice in the Illinois business community says Illinois doesn’t need to adopt the controversial policy.

Todd Maisch, president and CEO of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, supported Missouri’s enactment of right-to-work, saying it was “good news” for Missouri’s people and their economy. Other states may consider adopting a right-to-work status after reviewing other states’ experience with its implementation, he said.

Citing 17,000 jobs Illinois lost in 2016, Masich said Illinois currently lacks a competitive job environment. Surrounding right-to-work states will now compete for our jobs, he said.

“Studies show that right-to-work states have higher job growth, higher gross state product and competitive wages,” Maisch said.

“Right to work” refers to eliminating mandatory union dues and membership in workplaces with a unionized staff. Proponents say it frees workers from extra cost and membership in a group with which they may not agree. Opponents say it allows non-union workers to benefit from the union’s negotiations with an employer, without paying their fair share of the union’s costs. In states which do require union membership, employees can typically choose to pay a “fair share” due which is less than the full membership due and which can’t be used for political purposes.

A 2013 study on the economic effects of right-to-work laws conducted by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that right-to-work zones could result in lower wages for workers, fewer benefits to employees and could increase workplace fatalities. If Illinois adopted a right-to-work law, the report said that wages for employees would decline five to seven percent.

According to Maisch, Illinois can continue to be competitive with the surrounding states without adopting a right-to-work initiative, but he urged lawmakers to embrace other pro-growth policies to boost Illinois’ economy.

“Illinois has enough natural advantages that those other states need right-to-work to compete with us,” Maisch said. “We can lead the Midwest in economic growth without being right-to-work.”

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