The right to collectively bargain is the right of individual employees in a workplace to come together and to choose a representative (a union) to negotiate with their employer over terms and conditions of employment (such as wages, hours, working conditions, and benefits). Individuals typically do not have the economic bargaining power to negotiate with their employers. Unions level the playing field between workers and management, giving workers a meaningful seat at the bargaining table. Unionized workers use a collective bargaining agreement (or a contract) to secure the gains they have won through struggle. Good wages, benefits and a relatively safe work environment are not gifts from employers, rather they are the product of workers' collective efforts to force the employers to the negotiating table and play fair.
Our democratic right to collectively bargain is sacred; workers fought and died to establish these rights. Unions raise wages and benefits for all workers, union and non-union alike, by driving up the standards. When unions are weak, employers and shareholders get a larger piece of the economic pie and that is the way they like it. Without unions, employers can get away with unsafe and unfair working conditions and compensating workers as little as possible. That is why collective bargaining rights are under attack all around the country.
The Illinois Prevailing Wage Act requires construction contractors on publicly-funded projects to pay the wage that is most commonly paid for each construction trade in the county in which the work is performed. The law was passed to prevent taxpayer-funded projects from being used to drive down area wage and benefit standards for skilled construction workers. Though any contractor from anywhere can bid the work, they must base those bids on local wage and benefit packages. This law is very important for union Laborers because it requires contractors to bid projects based on the skill and efficiency of their workforce, rather than how low they can drive down wages and benefits. This means that our contractors will have an equal chance of winning the bids, thus putting our members to work on projects with family-supporting wages.
Anti-Union Right-to-Work Laws
Right-to-Work is a confusing term to describe a law meant to undermine the strength and power of unions. It is not a right to work. It is not a right to a job. It does not provide workers any job site rights or protections. It simply gives workers the option not to join a union or pay union dues. Right-to-Work is a law that prohibits union security agreements or “closed shop” agreements. That means that workers are not required to join the union or pay union dues when a union already exists in the workplace.
Here is the catch designed to crush unions, even if a worker does not join the union, they still receive all of the benefits of the union contract. Same wages, same benefits, same representation in an unfair firing. By not paying union dues, they are getting a free ride. By law, the union must provide the same representation it does to free loaders that it does to union members. Dues paying members shoulder all the expenses associated with union representation for themselves and for non-union members.
Free loaders push unions too thin. It takes away the resources for Locals to do their jobs. Because of this, unions in Right-to-Work states lose power at the bargaining table, negotiate weaker contracts, and ultimately lose more members, strength, and influence.That means less pay, fewer benefits, and more unsafe job sites than in right to prosper states.
Family-supporting Project Labor Agreements, otherwise known as Community Workforce Agreements or PLAs, are agreements between contractors, subcontractors, communities and workers over the working conditions, training requirements, and compensation on large scale construction projects. PLAs benefit workers, taxpayers, and communities by ensuring that these large public investments are done on time and on budget. Workers receive compensation and benefits based on the local wage scale and have access to free union training programs.
We are a nation of citizens. Citizenship unites us and can strengthen our unions. LiUNA was founded more than a century ago by immigrants struggling for citizenship and to improve their lives. These proud men and women have helped build our nation, just as many immigrants do today.
Our current immigration policy is failing both citizens and immigrants.
- Comprehensive immigration reform must include an earned path to citizenship so there is no underclass of workers that employers can use to drive down wages and working conditions.
- We have an obligation to secure our borders in a strong and humane way, while still recognizing it's in everyone's interest to keep families together.
- We are not a nation of guests and temporary workers and there is no justification for guest worker programs in the construction industry.