Protecting Employers Since 1985

Northern Illinois Labor Unions

In the course of our labor practice over the past 34 years, we have become intimately familiar with the various Northern Illinois labor unions. We have dealt with all of them. Naturally, most of these local unions are congregated in the metro Chicago area. The six country area is one of the few remaining areas in the U.S. where unions have significant strength. As we have chronicled in our reports to you over the years, union strength in the private sector is waning dramatically. However, Northern Illinois remains somewhat of an exception and, although membership numbers are declining, labor organizations still have power, at least by comparison to other areas of the country. There is particular truth to this in the construction industry. Below is a short commentary on the most important Northern Illinois labor unions.

AFSCME Council 31: Until recently, AFSCME had no place whatsoever in a listing of Illinois private sector labor unions. They were totally a public sector union. By far their biggest membership base consists of employees at the State of Illinois where they have about 35,000 members. This number will likely diminish greatly after the historic US Supreme Court Janus decision. In the last 10 years or so AFSCME has been branching off into the private sector where they are going after not for profits. These private sector targets have been in the social services and healthcare areas.

Bakery Workers Local 1: Nearly all of the various locals around Northern Illinois, because of declining membership, have merged into BCTGM Local 1. They primarily represent commercial bakeries. Bankruptcies and mergers of some of the big players in the baking industry have diminished Local 1’s membership base.

Bricklayers District Council 1: As with so many unions, most of the local unions around metro Chicago have merged into the District Council entity. Membership is exclusively in the construction industry.

Central States Joint Board: This is a miscellaneous union primarily focusing on small manufacturing companies. For decades they were a fixture at the corner of Erie St. and Damon on the northwest side of Chicago. They moved to Hillside in 2014. There are many small locals under their umbrella primarily under the name of Novelty and Production Workers Union.

Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters: Carpenters are strictly a construction industry union, although one local remains autonomous (Carpenters Local 1027). This local represents workers in plant type settings such truss manufacturers, millwork companies, and window and door manufacturers. The construction job site locals have almost completely merged into the Chicago Regional Council.

IAM: Declining membership for IAM has mirrored the decline of manufacturing. The key remaining entity in northern Illinois is IAM District 8 located in Burr Ridge.

IBEW: There are two large IBEW locals in metro Chicago – IBEW Local 134 and IBEW Local 701. As has been the case historically, the bulk of membership comes from construction and maintenance electricians. They also represent workers at area racetracks.

IBT: To a degree, the Teamsters have gone against the trend of merging into one large entity. There have been mergers, but most of the traditional locals remain autonomous. Historically, the Chicago locals have a highly focused membership base in specific types of businesses and the suburban locals are general jurisdiction locals. Most important locals are as follows:

  • Local 700 – public sector.
  • Local 705 – local trucking.
  • Local 710 – over the road trucking.
  • Local 727 – downtown Chicago parking garage employees. With some of the mergers, they have also acquired manufacturing contracts under their umbrella. They also represent Chicago area funeral homes.
  • Local 731 – construction industry and waste hauling.
  • Local 743 – primarily warehouse employees. But they have been making inroads recently in non-traditional union jobs such as office workers and healthcare workers.
  • Local 781 – for years this has been downtown Chicago’s miscellaneous local, with workers in a broad range of businesses. And primary focus is on warehouses and airlines. In line with employment shifts, Local 781 has moved to the suburbs and is now located in Elmhurst.
  • Local 786 – this local has declining membership but stays with their historic base of lumberyards and building material companies.

The collar counties have four active locals, all regarded as unions of general jurisdiction.

  • Local 179 – Joliet
  • Local 301 – Waukegan
  • Local 330 – Elgin
  • Local 673 – West Chicago

Iron Workers: There are any number of small Iron Workers locals scattered around the Chicago area and these are primarily in the construction industry with some manufacturing plants.

Laborers District Council: The Laborers District Council has followed the same pattern as the Carpenters. The small locals have been swallowed up and almost the entire union now in the Chicago area is controlled by the District Council of Chicago and Vicinity. They are primarily in the construction industry.

Mechanics Local 701: Local 701 is a part of IAM, but operates in an autonomous manner. They remain a large local and have a big base in metro Chicago automobile dealerships representing the automobile mechanics. They also have a substantial membership base in the heavy equipment industry with field mechanics.

Operating Engineers Local 150: This is a huge and financially powerful local. The membership base is primarily heavy equipment operators. They cover a large geographic base across northern Illinois, including parts of Iowa and Indiana. Local 399 is not a part of Local 150 and is much smaller and represents building engineers.

Painters District Council 30: The Painters are involved almost exclusively in the construction industry. The largest is Painters District Council 30, with authority over a number of locals including glaziers’ locals.

Plumbers and Pipefitters: Plumbers and pipefitters are primarily in the construction industry. Historically, these local have been confusing because some locals are limited strictly to pipefitters, others plumbers, and others combined locals. The largest is Local 597, located in downtown Chicago. Local 130, on Chicago’s west side, also has a substantial construction industry base.

Roofers Local 11: The Chicago area has only one local union for the roofers’ trade. This is Local 11 and they have a large jurisdictional area covering northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin.

SEIU Local 1: SEIU Local 1 is the largest SEIU local in Illinois. A big part of their growth was a takeover of SEIU Local 25, which was placed into trusteeship. Their membership base is primarily building janitors and maintenance employees. Almost all of their contracts are area-wide agreements such as the large BOMA agreement.

Sheet Metal Workers Local 73: The primary sheet metal workers local in Chicago is Local 73. Local 73 is located in Hillside and is the product of a number of mergers, including what is left of the Chicago area’s manufacturers of kitchen appliances and other industries where sheet metal is used. As with most unions, their membership base continues to shrink.

Sprinkler Fitters: Actually, the Sprinkler Fitters are part of the Plumbers and Pipefitters but operate autonomously. The one Chicago area local is Local 281. There is a national local in Maryland which is known as the Road Sprinkler Fitters. Many Chicago area unionized contractors have national contracts with the Road Sprinkler Fitters and that is Local 669.

UE: The UE is a storied old union. They are one of the CIO unions ousted in the communist purge of the late 1940s. The UE continues to have a distinct leftist philosophy and they represent a dwindling manufacturing base in Chicagoland.

UFCW: There are two principal UFCW locals in metro Chicago. Local 881 represents primarily grocery stores and they trace their history to the independent Jewel Food Stores union. The numbers 8-8-1 represent the official charter date. This was August 1981. Local 1546 has its historical roots in the meat packing industry and today retains those meat cutter contracts in the grocery industry along with non-retail meat packing, food manufacturing, and food processing. They have been moving into representation of nursing home employees.

This is merely a general commentary. We have a much more detailed and highly confidential book on Northern Illinois labor unions. We would be glad to email it to any of you who are interested. Contact me at

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