Federal Court Strikes Down Right-to-Work Ordinance

Author: Jacob D. Caudill

January 19, 2017

Earlier this month, a Federal District Court in Chicago struck down the Village of Lincolnshire’s “right-to-work” ordinance. We previously reported on this ordinance and how it affects employees governed by the NLRA.

The Village’s right-to-work ordinance operated in a fashion similar to right-to-work statutes passed in 26 states. Illinois, however, is not among those 26 states.

In striking down the ordinance, the Federal District Court found that the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), a federal statute, preempts the local ordinance. Generally, state and local governments are prohibited from regulating activity that would be protected or prohibited under the NLRA. However, the NLRA does provide for an exception.

Under Section 164(b) of the NLRA, “[n]othing in [the NLRA] shall be construed as authorizing the execution or application of agreements requiring membership in a labor organization as a condition of employment in any State or Territory in which such execution or application is prohibited by State or Territorial law.” The District Court interpreted this provision as allowing only States or Territories to pass right-to-work laws — not local governments. The fact that “local law” was not specifically mentioned in Section 164(b) was concerning to the District Court. Under Section 164(a), the NLRA specifically mentions the authority of “local law” in relation to supervisory roles. Congress’s decision to likewise not include the authority of “local law” in Section 164(b) indicated to the District Court that Congress specifically decided to allow only States and Territories to pass right-to-work laws.

We will continue to provide updates on this case if the Village decides to appeal this decision to the Seventh Circuit Appellate Court.

Author: Jacob D. Caudill