A number of Illinois manufacturing and chemical refining facilities would have to unionize or face fines if a measure in Springfield becomes law.
The legislation initially required any company that used a number of hazardous chemicals had to be staffed with a “skilled and trained workforce to perform all onsite work within an apprenticeable occupation in the building and construction trades,” essentially requiring unionization.
The bill was amended Thursday to include oil refineries and companies that manufacture petrochemicals, ethyl alcohol and “all other basic organic chemical manufacturing” as described by the 2017 North American Industry Classification System.
Sponsors of the bill couldn’t estimate the cost to non-unionized companies, but said it could be “substantial.”
The bill also includes a requirement that the Illinois Attorney General sue businesses that violate the rules for damages of at least $10,000 per shift that violates the union requirement.
State Sen. Chuck Weaver, R-Peoria, called the bill one of the most business-hostile pieces of legislation he has seen, adding that Marquis Inc. cited it as a reason the company decided against building an ethanol plant in central Illinois.
“Chicago may be doing fine, but downstate is in serious trouble,” he said.
Weaver said the price of corn in the vicinity of an operating ethanol plant rises at least 10 cents per bushel.
State Sen. Michael Hastings, D-Tinley Park, blamed President Donald Trump’s tariffs as the real reason Marquis’ plant stalled and referenced former Gov. Bruce Rauner’s issues with unions.
“For the last four years in the state of Illinois, people of unions, families of unions, friends of unions, communities where unions are located at, have been under direct attack,” he said. “I think it’s time that we say to these families ‘Illinois legislators are here to take care of you.’ ”
The district where Marquis would have built the plant is represented by freshman state Sen. Steve McClure, R-Springfield, who pointed to the unemployed workers in his district who could have benefitted from the now-scuttled ethanol plant.
“These people don’t care what bills get passed or not,” he said. “These people care about how much food is on their plates.”
Republicans said they felt deceived by Hastings after he promised committee members voting to progress the legislation that it would not be expanded to affect more than one facility, said state Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris.
The bill passed along party lines in a House committee Monday and now awaits a vote on the House floor before heading to the governor's desk.