Federal Judge Rules States Cannot Interfere with Collective Bargaining Rights

Chicago's McCormick Place

Judge re: McPier – No Interference in Collective Bargaining

  • By Michael Barnes, Chicago Conservative Examiner
  • April 1st, 2011 2:42 pm CT

In a ruling that has far-reaching implications for Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan, Maine, Indiana, Iowa, and Missouri, a federal judge threw out labor law reforms at Chicago’s McCormick Place that the Illinois state legislature enacted in 2010 following supplication from the convention industry.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Ronald Guzman affirms that collective bargaining rights cannot be overturned by governmental edict. Guzman told the Legislature “it had no business trying to interfere with collective bargaining” according to Marvin Gittler, an attorney representing Local 727 of the Teamsters.

Guzman held that the National Labor Relations Act preempts the Legislature from dictating terms for unions working at McCormick Place. This ruling is similar to the finding of The International Commission for Labor Rights, which has said, in part: The ICLR identified the right of “freedom of association” as a fundamental right and affirmed that the right to collective bargaining is an essential element of freedom of association. These rights, which have been recognized worldwide, provide a brake on unchecked corporate or state power.

In 1935, when Congress passed the National Labor Relations Act (also known as the NLRA, or the Wagner Act), it recognized the direct relationship between the inequality of bargaining power of workers and corporations and the recurrent business depressions. That is, by depressing wage rates and the purchasing power of wage earners, the economy fell into depression. The law therefore recognized as policy of the United States the encouragement of collective bargaining.

While the NLRA covered US employees in private employment, the law protecting collective bargaining in both the public and private sectors has developed since 1935 to cover all workers “without distinction.”

Unaffected by the ruling are plans to bring the lakefront convention complex under private management and to spin off oversight of Navy Pier to a new non-profit corporation.

Guzman also said “Despite its breadth, it’s not clear that (the reform bill) advances the state’s goal of reducing exhibitors’ costs.” He noted that exhibitors don’t pay for union work directly, but are billed by show contractors. Without intruding on labor relations, the General Assembly could have limited contractor markups on labor.

Before the General Assembly passed the ‘reform’ legislation, unionized trades had lowered their hourly rate and changed work rules, and had complained that exhibition contractors were pocketing the savings instead of passing it on to the exhibitors.

David Causton, general manager of McCormick Place, said McPier will ‘soon’ begin audits of its shows to ensure that contractors pass along labor savings.

Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno said, “We are hopeful the authority wins a quick stay and that the decision is overturned on appeal.

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