A workers’ rights amendment will appear on the Illinois ballot. Here’s what it does | Chicago News

Among the choices voters will have to make on November 8 is whether to add a new amendment to the Illinois constitution that would give workers the “fundamental right to organize and bargain collectively” while prohibiting any law interfering with this ability.

Amendment would add a “Workers’ Rights” section to the State Bill of Rights, which reads: “Employees have the fundamental right to organize and bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing for the purpose of negotiating wages, hours and working conditions, and to protect their economic well-being, their security and their work. No law shall be passed that interferes with, denies or diminishes the right of employees to organize and bargain collectively over their wages, hours and other conditions of employment and workplace safety, including any law or an order prohibiting the execution or application of agreements between employers and labor organizations representing employees requiring membership in an organization as a condition of employment.

Unions are working hard to get voters to accept change.

Illinois AFL-CIO chief Tim Drea said the amendment would be a game-changer for workers.

“A person spends almost the majority of his life at work. These rights, these workers’ rights, must be included in the constitution so that they are preserved,” Drea said. “We certainly wouldn’t give away the right to free speech or the right to worship as you see fit or any other right, just saying, ‘Oh, we’ll leave that to state law.'”

Drea said Attempts by former Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner to restrict existing wage laws and make Illinois a right-to-work state have been a wake-up call.

Overall, Rauner was unsuccessful in his efforts, although Janus vs. The US Supreme Court’s AFSCME decision, which found that public employees could not be required to pay union dues as a condition of employment for a government entity, weakened public unions.

Unlike right-to-work states, private companies in Illinois can still require employees to join a union as a condition of employment.

Illinois Chamber of Commerce President Todd Maisch said those who want a job shouldn’t have to pay pensions and union operations if they don’t want to, but he said the reality policy is that there is no chance that Illinois will join most of its neighbors. by becoming a State of the right to work.

“We know the political whims here in Illinois. We know Illinois won’t be joining Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, and Kentucky as right-to-work states anytime soon. We know that. But why enshrine it in the constitution when it just sends a message to anyone who might be looking to invest in Illinois about where our priorities really lie,” Maisch said.

He described these priorities as belonging to unions and not to job creators.

Maisch said the push for the amendment was ‘political expediency’ on the part of workers

“And what he does, he takes it off the table. They don’t have to explain every year why the right to work is or isn’t a good idea. It just takes it off the table for a generation, maybe two, so they don’t have to expend political juice behind this agenda and they can move on,” Maisch said.

But Joe Bowen, who does communications for the group Vote Yes for Workers’ Rights which is campaigning for the amendment’s passage, said investing in the workforce attracts businesses and creates jobs. jobs.

He said the wage increase would increase state revenue and that of private companies.

“We know that when workers do better, they don’t just buy stocks, they buy dinner at local restaurants, they have a cup of coffee at a local store. And these expenses don’t just benefit these families and small businesses, they really help their local community as well as our state as a whole,” Bowen said. “So voting yes for the workers’ rights amendments will help us put more money in the pockets of working families, it will help us keep them safe on the job and it will protect their rights in the workplace from abuse. politicians in the future.”

Another criticism is based on the sentence which specifies what the unions can negotiate on: wages, hours and working conditions but also “economic well-being”.

Critics say “economic welfare” is a broad term that will give teachers and other public unions more leeway to strike.

Current state law establishes conditions for educators to strike, for example that the parties have tried mediation without success.

“We think under this amendment someone can go straight to the Supreme Court and say, ‘This law is no longer constitutional, we can go straight from a few grievances to a strike. And existing state law that modulates that can be thrown out in minutes,” Maisch said.

It’s also a concern for Mailee Smith, director of labor policy at right-wing think tank, Illinois Policy Institute.

She said that with the exception of the right to work ban, which the National Labor Relations Act defines as a decision for states to make, most of the amendment will only apply. to public sector unions because national legislation takes precedence.

She said the fights that would lead to lawsuits.

“What we are likely to see first is disparate litigation as unions try to implement some of these new rights in the private sector. And employers are going to have to fight that in litigation, and until there’s that final court ruling that says ‘no, that really can’t apply to the private sector’, that’s fine cost employers dearly,” Smith said.

Smith said expanding bargaining beyond wages and benefits will have “dramatic consequences.”

“The government union is really going to be at the mercy of the union because they will have all the power – they can strike to get these new demands met,” Smith said. “Government contracts will cost more. These expanded topics will make the negotiations cost more, they will make the contract that is being negotiated cost more, and that will be passed on to the taxpayers to pay for it.

Union leader Drea said there were no plans to make major changes or push for new laws if the amendment passed. Instead, the proposed amendment seeks to preserve rights.

“The work will always be there, relying on it. As technology evolves and things happen, we are always going to rely on workers’ rights,” Drea said. “But we have no nefarious plan to come in and take over the world with this amendment.”

Backed by financial support from the union, the Vote Yes for Workers’ Rights ballot initiative committee millions more to spend on getting its message across, compared to the million dollars the Vote No On Amendment 1 group has, thanks to conservative donor Richard Uihlein of U-Line Corporation.

Bowen, with the campaign, said there has never been a more important time for union protections to be added to the Bill of Rights.

“We know there will be more attacks on workers, as you see them almost every day from some of the biggest companies and major special interest groups. And I think Illinois should be prepared to step up and protect their rights now and in the future,” Bowen said. “We live in one of the most unpredictable times politically.”

Democrats in the State Legislature voted to ask this question on the November ballot.

To be added to the constitutionit will take yes votes from either three-fifths of those voting on the proposal or a majority of those who voted in the November election, even if they skip that particular question.

Follow Amanda Vinicky on Twitter: @amandavinicky


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