U.S. Seventh Circuit - The FindLaw 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Court: Village Can't Confer 'Right-To-Work' Law

A local municipality can't confer a right to work on employees who opt not to join unions, a federal appeals court said.

In International Union of Operating Engineers Local 399 v. Village of Lincolnshire, the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals said a municipality's "right-to-work" agreement violated the National Labor Relations Act.

The only problem is that not everybody agrees -- including the Sixth Circuit. Sooner or later, the issue could go to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Right-To-Work"

Right-to-work agreements confront the "free rider" issue, which comes up when some employees pay union dues and others do not. Opponents to the agreements say they shouldn't have to pay if they don't want to belong to a union.

In Illinois, the Village of Lincolnshire passed a right-to-work law. A federal judge said the law was preempted by the NLRA, and the Seventh Circuit agreed.

The appeals court had a choice: follow a federal Sixth Circuit decision or a Kentucky state court decision in Kentucky State AFL-CIO v. Puckett. It was about state versus local rule.

"With all due respect to our sister circuit, on the union-security clause issue we find ourselves persuaded by the position that Kentucky took," the Seventh Circuit said.

"Administrative Nightmare"

The appeals court said the local law would "seriously undermine" the objectives of the NLRA. With more than 7,000 local governments, the judges said, it would be an "administrative nightmare."

"Construed the way the village would have it, the ordinance would put employers in and around the village in an impossible position," Judge Diane Wood wrote for the court.

Wood distinguished the case from United Automobile Aerospace and Agriculture Implement Workers of America Local 3047 v. Hardin County Kentucky.

In that case, the Sixth Circuit said the NRLA allows political subdivisions to make some union laws.

Related Resources: