CHARLESTON — At a rally Sunday afternoon, Eastern Illinois University staff members talked about times when their unions looked out for them during health and professional crises.
As they rallied for passage of the proposed Workers’ Rights Amendment, participants in this event held by the Coles Progressives and the Coles County Democrats at Morton Park said they hope to see more Illinois workers be able to benefit from the support offered by union membership.
The proposal asking voters to amend the state constitution to guarantee the right to bargain collectively is on the Nov. 8 election ballot statewide.
“I don’t want to see people out there working three jobs so they can buy groceries and pay rent,” said Vivian Robinson, a Democratic State Central committeewoman from Harrisburg. “I want you to have a decent wage. I want you to have medical insurance. I want you to be able to have those kind of benefits that unions protect.”
Approximately 30 audience members gathered under the roof of Morton Park’s south pavilion during a light rainfall and cool temperatures to hear several speakers, including Betsy Jewell, member of University Professionals of Illinois Local 4100.
Jewell, part of the faculty with EIU Communication and Journalism, discussed the health and professional struggles she faced a few years ago after being diagnosed with a brain tumor. Jewell said she incurred more than $1 million in medical expenses during her treatment, so she is thankful for the medical insurance that her union helped negotiate and protect for her and her colleagues.
“We need the unions. They are so critical to protecting people who don’t have a voice,” Jewell said. “This amendment is so important to protecting those rights.”
The Associated Press has reported that some business groups and conservatives oppose the measure, saying they think it will drive up taxes, give unions too much power, lead to more strikes and prompt companies to leave for more industry-friendly states. These concerns have been reflected in many anti-amendment yard signs in Coles County.
Robinson and other rally participants spoke against these concerns, citing the economic benefits of unions helping give families stable wages and providing stable trained workforces at a time when many employers are struggling to fill vacant positions.
Kim Turner, president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 981, talked about when her union stood up for her and many other EIU employees when they received layoff notices during the lengthy budget impasse during Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration.
Turner, an office manager in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said union members marched on the state Capitol and successfully confronted state lawmakers about meeting the state’s financial obligations.
“During that time, I really started to see how important unions can be,” Turner said.
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October 30, 2022 at 08:59PM