ALEC Wants To Make Protest Illegal In Illinois

Maggie Ellinger-Locke Staff Attorney, Greenpeace USA

Dangerous anti-protest legislation is working its way through state assemblies all across the U.S., chipping away at the right to protest and undermining social justice movements. State legislators have introduced nearly 100 bills curbing your right to protest since the resistance at Standing Rock began. And if oil and gas companies get their way, Illinois will now be added to the list.

HB 1633, a bill targeting activists, has already overwhelmingly passed the Illinois House of Representatives and is now pending in the State Senate. It has been slated for a hearing next Tuesday, May 14, at 5 p.m., and people can submit witness slips for or against the bill here. 

If this bill is enacted, protesters in Illinois will no longer be able to resist the expansion of fossil fuel pipelines in their communities without risking felony charges.

Specifically, this bill seeks to increase criminal penalties for people who trespass on so-called critical infrastructure facilities. The bill almost exactly lifts its language from a model bill authored by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the secretive group of corporate lobbyists trying to rewrite state laws to benefit corporations over people.

The bill would broadly redefine “critical infrastructure” to include oil and gas pipelines and processing facilities, and turn peaceful activity by protesters into a class four felony punishable by up to three years of incarceration and a heavy fine.

In Illinois as other states, this bill is based almost word-for-word on ALEC’s model critical infrastructure bill, which was inspired by legislation first passed in Oklahoma in 2017, in response to the months-long protests at Standing Rock which stalled construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Since ALEC decided to promote this legislation nationwide in January of 2018, critical infrastructure bills have been introduced in more than a dozen states. In all but two of those states an ALEC legislator has been listed as sponsor.


In the other two states – Missouri and South Dakota – fossil fuel companies have directly lobbied for the bills. In Illinois, bill co-sponsor Rep. Joe Sosnowski is a confirmed member of this powerful lobbying group.

ALEC isn’t often at the forefront of legislative changes in blue states like Illinois, but with overwhelming support for this bill by Democrats in the Illinois House, that may be changing.

What’s unique about the Illinois legislation, and what may have duped so many House Democrats into supporting it, is that it includes exceptions for First Amendment protected activity within the labor organizing context: this is the first time we’ve seen this kind of bait-and-switch in in a critical infrastructure bill, after the nearly two dozen that have been offered over the last two years.

By seeking to pit labor unions against environmentalists, the authors of the bill create a dangerous and false dichotomy that undermines solidarity and continues to put our planet at risk.

Instead, labor and green groups should be looking and thinking ahead, about ways they can work together to create a bold new future that centers a just transition away from a carbon economy by establishing sustainable jobs and industry that supports the health of us all.

Another failure of the Illinois bill is that it would subject a person to ten years in prison and a $100,000 fine for any damage that occurs at a “critical infrastructure” facility, no matter how minor the offense. Someone who spray paints a slogan on the side of a pipeline would face the same sentence as someone who intentionally caused damage that actually puts health and safety at risk.

Illinois does need criminal justice reform – like the ongoing efforts in the state to end money bail – but this bill is not it.

Scientists have told us we have only a decade to reduce our carbon footprint by 50 percent, if we want to avoid the worst effects of our looming climate crisis. We are at a critical moment when we need activism more than ever. Legislative efforts by extractive industries and shadow lobbies like ALEC to further criminalize illegal conduct sends us in the wrong direction.

Fortunately, Illinois groups like The People’s Lobby, ONE Northside, Cook County Public Defender, Illinois People’s Action, the Jane Addams Senior Caucus and the Fair Economy Illinois alliance, Chicago Community Bond Fund, and more, are on the case and are taking action to keep this bill away from Gov. Pritzker’s desk.

Should it make it there, he will have the power to stop it by vetoing the bill, as governors did in legislative sessions in 2018 in Minnesota and Wyoming.

The bill currently sits in an Illinois senate subcommittee which has not yet scheduled it for a hearing, but the bill could move any day. The legislative session runs through the end of May, so now is the time to urge lawmakers to vote no. Similar bills are still pending in other states, and the legislative season is almost over for the year.

The right to protest is a core American value, and free speech is the truly critical infrastructure of our democracy. Don’t let ALEC erode your rights. Read up on these bills, and do everything you can to speak out. Our very future depends on it.


Reposted from Our Future

There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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