Voters will decide on ‘right to unionize’ constitutional amendment

Voters will decide on ‘right to unionize’ constitutional amendment

By PETER HANCOCK
Capitol News Illinois
[email protected]

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois voters will be asked in November to decide whether the right of workers to form unions and engage in collective bargaining should be enshrined in the state constitution.

The first clause of the amendment contains two sentences. The first would establish a “fundamental right to organize and to bargain collectively and to negotiate wages, hours, and working conditions, and to promote their economic welfare and safety at work.”

The second would prohibit the state or any local unit of government from enacting “any law 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 workplace safety.”

Text of the constitutional amendment that voters will decide on Nov. 8

The provision is intended to prevent passage of any state or local “right to work” laws, which prohibit employers from requiring workers to be union members to keep their jobs.

The second clause states that the amendment would be controlling over another part of the constitution that spells out the powers of home rule units of local government, meaning those units of government would still be subject to the amendment.

Lawmakers approved putting the measure on the ballot during the 2021 spring session. The resolution passed both chambers with bipartisan support: 49-7 in the Senate and 80-30 in the House.

Like any constitutional issue, however, there is considerable disagreement over what those words mean and what effects they would have if the amendment is adopted.

The proposal is supported by several large labor unions, but it has drawn opposition from groups such as the Illinois Association of School Boards, the Illinois Chamber of Commerce and the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association.

To gather a sense of the arguments for and against the measure, the Illinois Associated Press Media Editors convened an online forum with Joe Bowen, communications director for a Vote Yes for Workers Rights, the only organized political committee campaigning on the issue. They also spoke with Mailee Smith, director of labor policy and a staff attorney with the Illinois Policy Institute, a conservative think tank that opposes the measure.

The questions came from representatives of the Daily Herald and Shaw Media. The video is available here or linked below.

Bowen and Smith were asked at the outset what they believe the amendment would mean and the implications of adopting it.

“The workers’ rights amendment will guarantee your fundamental rights in the workplace to organize and bargain collectively with your coworkers to negotiate for things like better pay, safer working conditions, and crucially, it will also protect Illinois voters from politicians who try to take away their rights in the future,” Bowen said.

He said it gives Illinois workers an opportunity “to vote for themselves on Nov. 8.”

“It will enshrine protections that most of us are already enjoying while extending protection to workers who don’t currently have it,” Bowen said. “It will be a tremendous win for our workers as well as our entire economy and local communities.”

Smith, on the other hand, asserted that the amendment would apply only to public-sector workers because private-sector workers are already covered by the National Labor Relations Act, which would supersede any state law or state constitutional provision.

As a result, she argued that it would drive up local property taxes by giving public employee unions power to negotiate a broader range of issues, including “economic welfare,” which isn’t defined in the amendment or other state law.

“And it’s not defined in other similar laws like the National Labor Relations Act,” she said. “That could mean things like the expansion of affordable housing or positions on rent abatement could be demanded by government unions.”

She also said the provision preempting right-to-work laws could have unintended consequences.

“It prohibits lawmakers, as the people’s representatives, from ever enacting reforms or fixes,” she said. “So if lawmakers decide down the line, ‘Oh, wow, we didn’t mean economic welfare to mean all of these broad subjects,’ they could never go back and define what economic welfare actually is because they’d be prohibited in the amendment itself from doing that.”

Bowen countered that the amendment has nothing to do with taxes but, instead, protects only the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively in the workplace.

If it were adopted, he said, it would apply uniformly statewide to all workers in both the public and private sectors. He also said it would protect workers from politicians who attempt to enact right-to-work laws, a reference to former Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner, who tried unsuccessfully to push such legislation through the General Assembly.

Finally, he suggested that the rights spelled out in federal law could change or be repealed at any time, referring to the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned the right to abortion that had been established under Roe v. Wade.

“And I think it’s critically important at a time when we don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow – and we’ve seen a lot of unpredictability and rights under attack, both federally and here in Illinois – to make sure that these rights stay in a lockbox and that they’re safe for workers for generations to come,” he said.

As a follow-up, the two were asked to identify what rights workers would have under the amendment that they don’t already have under existing law.

Bowen said the amendment would protect existing rights and extend them to “hundreds of thousands” of workers who aren’t covered under existing law. He said it’s important to guarantee bargaining rights now and into the future, considering “we spend almost half of our lives in the workplace.”

“Whether or not you have the ability to earn a good living, to stay safe on the job, it really impacts every part of your life,” he said. “So making sure that we guarantee these protections in the Illinois Constitution is critically important.”

Smith argued that elevating collective bargaining rights to the level of the constitution would put labor agreements beyond the reach of existing statutes that apply to public employee contracts.

“If a teachers union didn’t want to have background checks as part of the job application process, the hiring process, they could write that into their contract,” she said. “It could keep government union contracts a secret. They could actually void the (Freedom of Information Act) law that requires government union contracts to be open to the public, simply by writing that provision into the contract.”

Bowen initially declined to respond to that assertion, but later in the discussion said, “I don’t believe it’s legally permissible to enter into a contract that violates state or federal law.”

Constitutional amendments have two paths to passage in Illinois. If the measure receives 60 percent of the vote from those voting on the question, it passes. But if it fails to reach the 60 percent threshold on the question but still musters “yes” votes from more than half of those voting in the election, it would still pass.

Election Day is Nov. 8, but early voting has already begun. More information is available at local election authorities.

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government that is distributed to more than 400 newspapers statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation.

Leave a Comment





Local News

new lane configuration 2-6-23

Tri-State lane closures start Monday as area ramps prepare to reopen

Spread the love

Spread the loveOvernight lane closures are scheduled next week to shift traffic on Interstate 55 and on the northbound Tri-State Tollway (Interstate 294) between Willow Springs Road and Plainfield Road and reopen the ramp connecting northbound I-294 to southbound I-55 and Wolf Road. On Monday, February 6, beginning at 9 p.m. and continuing until 5…

Newly installed Orland Park Area Chamber president Ramzi Hassan addresses members during last week’s installation dinner. (Photos by Steve Neuhaus)

Comings & Goings: Orland Area Chamber installs new officers

Spread the love

Spread the loveRamzi Hassan of Edwards Realty Company was installed last week as president of the Orland Park Area Chamber of Commerce. The 2023 board of directors was also installed and annual membership awards were handed out during ceremonies last Thursday at the Crystal Tree Country Club. Installation duties were performed by Orland Park Mayor…

Oak Lawn resident Clayton J. Beck III displays his work of art accompanied by the model at the first unofficial event for the Acorn to Oak Studios at the Pilgrim Faith Church campus. Beck will be on hand to moderate the first official session to be held Sunday at the church. (Supplied photo)

Oak Lawn studio wants to be haven for artists

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Joe Boyle An acorn may be the symbol that inspires the Oak Lawn community to unleash its artistic talents. The first official session of the Acorn to Oak Studios will be presented from noon to 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 5, in the north wing of the Pilgrim Faith Church campus, 9411 S.…

Matt Dugan

EPCHS names Matthew Dugan next principal

Spread the love

Spread the loveFrom staff reports Evergreen Park Community High School has hired Matthew Dugan as its next principal. Dugan’s appointment was made official during the January 24 meeting of the Evergreen Park Community High School Board of Education. Dugan will become principal on July 1, upon the retirement of current Principal Bill Sanderson. “I am…

Willow Springs resident Jim Distasio was the first speaker to criticize the proposed land sale for use as an industrial park. (Photos by Steve Metsch)

Lyons Township school board rejects sale of 70-acre parcel in Willow Springs

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Steve Metsch The sale of 70 acres in Willow Springs to a developer who wants to build an industrial park has been rejected by the Lyons Township High School District 204 board, but the door remains wide open to a sale. The board voted unanimously Jan. 23 to reject bids of $46.5…

Children enjoying themselves at Flying High in Countryside on January 14. (Supplied photo)

Venezuelan asylum seeking families enjoy a night out at Flying High in Countryside

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Carol McGowan Twenty-three adults and 30 children of Venezuelan families seeking asylum enjoyed a fun night out on January 14 courtesy of Flying High in Countryside. The event was a collaboration between St. Cletus Church in LaGrange, and Flying High, at 5400 East Avenue in Countryside. Flying High opened their gym doors…

All that's left of Georgis Catering is a burned out shell. To the right, is mom and Dad's Deli, which suffered smoke and water damage. (Photo by Carol McGowan)

Georgis Catering owner vows to rebuild after fire

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Bob Bong Georgis Catering owner Buz Georgis is maintaining an upbeat outlook despite the destruction of his business in an early-morning fire Friday at 63rd Place and Central Avenue in Chicago’s Clearing neighborhood. “It’s been a pretty crazy week,” he said Monday. “But we are moving forward and we plan on being…

dvn beds plus soup1 2023

BEDS Plus Soup & Bread event to raise money to assist the homeless

Spread the love

Spread the love By Steve Metsch One way to warm up on a cold winter’s day is with a bowl of soup. And on Sunday, soup lovers can sample 20 different soups and also get the warm feeling received by helping a local charitable organization. BEDS Plus, which helps the homeless through the southwest suburbs,…

District 230 board member Dave O'Connor urges Sandburg parents to consider having their students take dual credit courses to save college tuition money at the Jan. 26 meeting. (Photo by Jeff Vorva)

Sandburg/MVCC dual courses could save plenty of money

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Jeff Vorva The price of college tuition keeps going up and shows no sign of ever going down. Thus, District 230 Board Member Dave O’Connor is urging Sandburg parents with college-bound students to take a long look at the school’s dual credit program with Moraine Valley. “We get students here who will…

Cubework has purchased the former Sears propertry at Orland Square Mall. (Photo by Bob Bong)

Cubework to turn Orland Park Sears site into Coworking Mall

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Bob Bong That vast empty space at Orland Square Mall that was once the home of retail giant Sears may be getting new life. California-based Cubework has purchased the former Sears property at Orland Square Mall and is marketing the former mall anchor store as a Coworking Mall. The 16-acre purchase includes…

Neighbors

DVN JCs Restoration House Ad
new lane configuration 2-6-23

Tri-State lane closures start Monday as area ramps prepare to reopen

Spread the love

Spread the loveOvernight lane closures are scheduled next week to shift traffic on Interstate 55 and on the northbound Tri-State Tollway (Interstate 294) between Willow Springs Road and Plainfield Road and reopen the ramp connecting northbound I-294 to southbound I-55 and Wolf Road. On Monday, February 6, beginning at 9 p.m. and continuing until 5…

Newly installed Orland Park Area Chamber president Ramzi Hassan addresses members during last week’s installation dinner. (Photos by Steve Neuhaus)

Comings & Goings: Orland Area Chamber installs new officers

Spread the love

Spread the loveRamzi Hassan of Edwards Realty Company was installed last week as president of the Orland Park Area Chamber of Commerce. The 2023 board of directors was also installed and annual membership awards were handed out during ceremonies last Thursday at the Crystal Tree Country Club. Installation duties were performed by Orland Park Mayor…

Oak Lawn resident Clayton J. Beck III displays his work of art accompanied by the model at the first unofficial event for the Acorn to Oak Studios at the Pilgrim Faith Church campus. Beck will be on hand to moderate the first official session to be held Sunday at the church. (Supplied photo)

Oak Lawn studio wants to be haven for artists

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Joe Boyle An acorn may be the symbol that inspires the Oak Lawn community to unleash its artistic talents. The first official session of the Acorn to Oak Studios will be presented from noon to 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 5, in the north wing of the Pilgrim Faith Church campus, 9411 S.…

Matt Dugan

EPCHS names Matthew Dugan next principal

Spread the love

Spread the loveFrom staff reports Evergreen Park Community High School has hired Matthew Dugan as its next principal. Dugan’s appointment was made official during the January 24 meeting of the Evergreen Park Community High School Board of Education. Dugan will become principal on July 1, upon the retirement of current Principal Bill Sanderson. “I am…

Willow Springs resident Jim Distasio was the first speaker to criticize the proposed land sale for use as an industrial park. (Photos by Steve Metsch)

Lyons Township school board rejects sale of 70-acre parcel in Willow Springs

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Steve Metsch The sale of 70 acres in Willow Springs to a developer who wants to build an industrial park has been rejected by the Lyons Township High School District 204 board, but the door remains wide open to a sale. The board voted unanimously Jan. 23 to reject bids of $46.5…

Children enjoying themselves at Flying High in Countryside on January 14. (Supplied photo)

Venezuelan asylum seeking families enjoy a night out at Flying High in Countryside

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Carol McGowan Twenty-three adults and 30 children of Venezuelan families seeking asylum enjoyed a fun night out on January 14 courtesy of Flying High in Countryside. The event was a collaboration between St. Cletus Church in LaGrange, and Flying High, at 5400 East Avenue in Countryside. Flying High opened their gym doors…

All that's left of Georgis Catering is a burned out shell. To the right, is mom and Dad's Deli, which suffered smoke and water damage. (Photo by Carol McGowan)

Georgis Catering owner vows to rebuild after fire

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Bob Bong Georgis Catering owner Buz Georgis is maintaining an upbeat outlook despite the destruction of his business in an early-morning fire Friday at 63rd Place and Central Avenue in Chicago’s Clearing neighborhood. “It’s been a pretty crazy week,” he said Monday. “But we are moving forward and we plan on being…

dvn beds plus soup1 2023

BEDS Plus Soup & Bread event to raise money to assist the homeless

Spread the love

Spread the love By Steve Metsch One way to warm up on a cold winter’s day is with a bowl of soup. And on Sunday, soup lovers can sample 20 different soups and also get the warm feeling received by helping a local charitable organization. BEDS Plus, which helps the homeless through the southwest suburbs,…

District 230 board member Dave O'Connor urges Sandburg parents to consider having their students take dual credit courses to save college tuition money at the Jan. 26 meeting. (Photo by Jeff Vorva)

Sandburg/MVCC dual courses could save plenty of money

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Jeff Vorva The price of college tuition keeps going up and shows no sign of ever going down. Thus, District 230 Board Member Dave O’Connor is urging Sandburg parents with college-bound students to take a long look at the school’s dual credit program with Moraine Valley. “We get students here who will…

Cubework has purchased the former Sears propertry at Orland Square Mall. (Photo by Bob Bong)

Cubework to turn Orland Park Sears site into Coworking Mall

Spread the love

Spread the loveBy Bob Bong That vast empty space at Orland Square Mall that was once the home of retail giant Sears may be getting new life. California-based Cubework has purchased the former Sears property at Orland Square Mall and is marketing the former mall anchor store as a Coworking Mall. The 16-acre purchase includes…

DVN Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church House Ad
CRR NH Ptecik Bakery House Ad