Eye On Illinois: Union amendment yet to find campaign season spotlight

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Today’s topic comes courtesy of Sheffield reader J.D.:

“Would you please investigate what this Amendment 1 that is to appear on the Nov. 8 ballot really is about. I’m reading online that it is to be a tax hike disguised as a ‘workers rights amendment,’ when in fact supporting this would prevent commonsense reforms to reduce homeowners’ tax burdens and give Illinois the ‘right’ to increase property taxes. Would appreciate your help in understanding and informing the public.”

Great question. Starting with the bare facts, Illinoisans will be asked to cast a yes or no vote on adding the following language to the state Constitution:

“(a) Employees shall have the fundamental right to organize and to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing for the purpose of negotiating wages, hours, and working conditions, and to protect their economic welfare and safety at work. No law shall be passed that interferes with, negates, or diminishes the right of employees to organize and bargain collectively over their wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment and work place safety, including any law or ordinance that prohibits the execution or application of agreements between employers and labor organizations that represent employees requiring membership in an organization as a condition of employment.

“(b) The provisions of this Section are controlling over those of Section 6 of Article VII.”

Scott T. Holland

Scott T. Holland

Proponents indeed call it the Workers’ Rights Amendment. They make their case at workersrights.com, promising passage “will put more money in the pockets of workers who join together for negotiating raises, helping working families deal with rising costs while making our economy and our communities stronger.”

Opponents, most notably the Illinois Policy Institute (illinoispolicy.org), say enactment “would lead to substantial tax increases for working Illinoisans and small business owners.”

When the General Assembly placed the measure on the ballot, it also codified language explaining pros and cons to voters. That text references the 2018 U.S. Supreme Court opinion holding public employees cannot be forced to pay union dues in order to keep their jobs and explains the amendment “would deny that protection to private sector workers. The amendment also states that lawmakers could never ‘interfere with, negate, or diminish’ certain rights. These terms are broad and undefined and leave lawmakers without the ability to clarify through legislation.”

I’ll continue to explore the issue as November approaches. But it’s worth noting J.D.’s email came June 21; in 10 weeks since neither Gov. JB Pritzker nor challenger state Sen. Darren Bailey, R-Xenia, has meaningfully centered the issue in their campaign.

This referendum and the state Supreme Court races could have more lasting statewide significance than the gubernatorial outcome, but thus far campaign spending tells a different story.

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media. Follow him on Twitter @sth749. He can be reached at sholland@shawmedia.com.

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August 31, 2022 at 05:06AM

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