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July 26, 2005

Governor Blagojevich signs legislation to expand workers’ picketing rights
New law allowing workers to use public rights of way underscores Governor’s commitment to workers’ rights

CHICAGOBuilding on his long-standing commitment to protect workers’ rights and improve conditions for hard working men and women across the state, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today signed legislation that broadens picketing rights for labor unions and other workers involved in labor disputes with their employers.
House Bill 1480 allows people involved in labor disputes to picket, post temporary signs, park vehicles and set up tents or other temporary shelter areas for the picketers on public rights of way without having to require a permit. Currently cities, which are often employers with whom unions might have labor disputes, sometimes use public safety issues to suppress a union’s right to picket during a dispute.
“If hard working men and women need to march on the street to let the public know about a labor dispute, they should be able to do so without interference. Our nation is built on democracy and liberties, and one of the greatest liberties we have is the freedom of speech. That’s why I’m proud to sign legislation that secures our workers’ fundamental right to picket,” said Gov. Blagojevich who signed the bill during the AFL-CIO’s 25th Constitutional Convention at Chicago’ Navy Pier.
Rep. Brandon Phelps (D-Harrisburg) and Sen. Debbie DeFrancesco Halvorson (D-Chicago Heights) sponsored HB 1480, which allows for picketing in public rights of way. A public right of way is defined as a portion of a highway or street next to a roadway for accommodating stopped vehicles or for emergency use, that portion of a street between the curb lines, or the lateral lines of a roadway and the adjacent property lines.
“This law will prevent cities from suppressing a union or group’s opportunity to picket during labor disputes by setting uniform standards in place.  We are heartened that Governor Blagojevich signed this much-needed law today,” said Rep. Phelps.
“This is about having the freedom and the right to make disagreements with employers public knowledge.  By signing this law today, the Governor recognizes the importance of this freedom,” said Sen. Halvorson.
Activities specifically authorized under this legislation are picketing by workers, posting of temporary signs, parking vehicles on the right of way and setting up tents or temporary shelter areas for the picketers.
“HB 1480 is a major victory for all Illinois workers.  “This will help any party, union or non-union, to inform their community about disputes with employers.  It is a matter of free speech,” said Margaret Blackshere, President of the Illinois AFL-CIO.
In addition to the AFL-CIO, supporters of this legislation include Teamsters, Teachers, Laborers, Steelworkers, Operating Engineers, United Auto Workers, SEIU and AFSCME.  HB 1480 becomes effective January 1, 2006.
Since the beginning of his administration, Governor Blagojevich has made protecting workers’ rights one of his top priorities. Through executive or legislative action, the Governor has:
  • Signed legislation that dramatically changes the workers’ compensation system to increase benefits for workers, reduce costs for businesses, and fight fraud.  After the Governor made workers’ compensation reform a top priority in his 2005 State of the State address, he convened negotiations over several months with business and labor leaders and members of the General Assembly that resulted in the first major overhaul of Illinois’ workers compensation system in nearly 20 years.
·                    Expanded health care benefits to working families. Since Governor Blagojevich took office, 313,000 more men, women and children have received health care through the KidCare and FamilyCare programs – at a time when most states are not only not providing more coverage for the working poor, but also kicking people off of Medicaid or significantly reducing their benefits.  This year’s budget included funding to add another 56,000 men, women and children.  The Kaiser Foundation has ranked Illinois the best state in the nation for providing health care to people who need it. 
  • Raised the minimum wage to $6.50 an hour, benefiting an estimated 450,000 Illinois workers. The raise made Illinois one of several states in the nation to increase the minimum wage above the federal level of $5.15 an hour, which hasn’t changed since 1997.
  • Signed legislation protecting hundreds of thousands of workers from being stripped of their right to overtime pay by new federal regulations.
  • Signed legislation to protect workers from employer indoctrination and confinement, making Illinois only the third state in the nation to enact card check recognition of public employees. The law provides that if 50 percent or more of workers sign union authorization cards, union recognition is automatic.
  • Signed legislation to help ensure that women receive equal pay for equal work.  Under the law, if a man and a woman do the same job they must be paid the same.
  • Signed legislation to protect U.S. jobs by requiring companies bidding for state business to certify whether the terms of the contract will be performed in the United States, and encouraging state agencies to buy products that are manufactured in the United States.   
  • Strengthened the Prevailing Wage Act by giving the Department of Labor better enforcement mechanisms, requiring postings of rates on job sites, and increasing penalties on contractors or subcontractors that fail to comply.
  • Expanded rights of Illinois workers to join a union. This directly benefited 50,000 home childcare workers, 20,000 personal care assistants and thousands of graduate students and court reporters.
  • Signed legislation to improve the structure and funding of the Unemployment Trust Fund.
  • Signed legislation that requires every contractor providing equipment, materials or supplies to the State of Illinois to specify that no foreign-made equipment, materials or supplies be produced by children under the age of 12.  Provides for penalties for a contractor who knowingly furnishes goods to the state produced by foreign child labor.
In addition to these accomplishments, the Governor will further protect some of the state’s most vulnerable workers by:
  • Signing into law a bill that will reinforce the Day and Temporary Labor Services Act and protect nearly 300,000 day laborers across Illinois. The law will make Illinois the most aggressive state in the nation when it comes to protecting the working conditions of day laborers, by giving the Illinois Department of Labor effective enforcement tools, including the ability to impose stiff penalties on unlawful day and temporary labor agencies.
  • Implementing recommendations drafted by the Latino Workers Safety Panel to drastically reduce the number of at-work fatalities and injuries suffered by the state’s Hispanic workers.

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