Illinois employers raise concerns over proposal to merge state agencies

A group representing Illinois employers has raised questions about Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s proposed merger of the Department of Labor and the Department of Employment Security.

Pritzker’s office said the merger would not only save taxpayer dollars, but would enhance enforcement of labor and unemployment laws and more effectively prevent fraud.

“A consolidation could result in significant savings and a more effective, unified agency overseeing labor regulation and job-related programs for the businesses and workers of Illinois,” the governor’s office said in a statement, adding that most states keep the two entities as one.

Rob Carr with a group called the Joint Employers that represents all sectors of Illinois’ job creators said the unemployment office is primarily funded by federal dollars.

“We’re at a loss as to how there are any savings there because there’s no state money currently being spent there,” he said.

There are some sectors, Carr said, that are tasked with special projects paid for with state money.

The Joint Employers consist of the Associated General Contractors of Illinois, Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, Illinois Chamber of Commerce, Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, Illinois Retail Merchants Association and the National Federation of Independent Business.

Since the 1980s the state’s employment services office has acted as a neutral referee between labor and employers. Either side could approach the office with questions about labor or employment policy with the trust that it was bound by confidentiality.

Carr warned that would go away if the two offices merged.

“You now put this back under the Department of Labor that has a very different focus and often has someone to head it who has been chosen from the labor community,” he said. “That neutral history would be removed.”

The governor’s office didn’t respond to questions about the merger.

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