Editorials

Illinois manufacturing jobs lag, but Supreme Court may fix what’s broke

U.S. Steel Corp. in Granite City has a fraction of the employees it once had. Illinois remains down in manufacturing jobs as neighboring states with right-to-work laws prosper.
U.S. Steel Corp. in Granite City has a fraction of the employees it once had. Illinois remains down in manufacturing jobs as neighboring states with right-to-work laws prosper. snagy@bnd.com

A decade ago when the Great Recession began, Illinois had 669,000 manufacturing jobs. Now we have 97,000 fewer of those jobs, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports.

Well, there was a serious economic downturn. We have to expect fewer jobs.

We do.

They don’t.

Our neighbors made up those job losses and have added jobs. Since 2009 Michigan added 163,700 manufacturing jobs, Indiana gained 90,800 and Wisconsin added 41,300. Missouri bottomed out in 2010 and recovered 25,000 jobs, but remains down almost 30,000 manufacturing jobs from a decade ago. Still, they are attractive enough to get Nucor to invest $250 million in a new steel mill while Granite City Steel remains a shadow of its former self.

“Our surrounding states are moving forward aggressively while we fight rearguard actions from getting even worse,” said Todd Maisch, president of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce. “It’s really that gap between Illinois and our competing states that is the saddest state of affairs.”

Neighboring states all have right-to-work laws blocking forced unionization. Maisch and the state’s manufacturers’ group said that is why Illinois lags.

It’s not easy being blue, but the U.S. Supreme Court may yet fix Illinois and the rest of the nation depending on the outcome of Janus vs. AFSCME. Mark Janus is an Illinois state employee suing so he is no longer forced to pay dues to a union with a political agenda he does not support. A nearly identical case was a 4-4 tie vote when the justices were without the late Antonin Scalia. With Neil Gorsuch now on the bench, Janus is likely to win his case with a 5-4 vote.

The end of forced public employee unionization will likely topple forced private-sector unionization. Illinois manufacturers and business leaders will have what they want.

Then it is up to them and the state to regain those manufacturing jobs, recoup the taxes and end the jobs exodus from Illinois.

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