Workers’ Rights Amendment will protect the right to organize in the Illinois constitution


Amendment 1 requires 60 percent to pass; every vote counts

Illinois Correspondent

Illinois voters will soon decide whether the right to organize will be part of the state constitution.

The Workers’ Rights Amendment, which will appear at the top of the Nov. 8 ballot as Amendment 1, would place the fundamental right to organize and bargain collectively in the state constitution, thus banning so-called “right-to-work” laws.

The Illinois House and Senate passed joint resolutions with bipartisan support in May 2021 to put the Workers’ Rights Amendment on the November ballot.

Illinois already has legislation to prevent individual municipalities from declaring themselves so-called “right-to-work” zones, but any legislation can be rolled back by a subsequent administration. Former Gov. Bruce Rauner, for instance, made rolling back Labor rights a priority during his administration.

It was under Rauner’s administration that the Janus v. AFSCME case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which held that requiring fair share fees from public service workers who receive union benefits but choose not to join the union is unconstitutional.

The vote to put the Workers’ Rights Amendment on the ballot passed 80-30 in the House with three voting present, and 49-7 in the Senate with three not voting. Lawsuits filed by the conservative Illinois Policy Institute to stop the amendment from going to the voters were turned down by the courts. Still, the measure requires a 60 percent majority of the vote to pass.

If approved, the amendment will read:

“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 workplace 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.”

Scot Luchtefeld, president of the Southwestern Illinois Central Labor Council said the amendment is “something we absolutely, positively need.

“Would it be better to have everyone getting a higher wage?” Luchtefeld said. “It’s the most important legislation I’ve seen to come down for union Labor in a very long time… It will give people who aren’t part of a union a chance to organize and make their lives better.”

Democratic candidates have come out in support of Amendment 1, including local and statewide candidates.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker made a strong push for the amendment and supporting Democratic leaders who favor it when he spoke in Madison County in August.

“You are the backbone of the middle class,” Pritzker told the Labor leaders. “You are the heroes of the state of Illinois, and I am so grateful to work for you.”

State Rep. Katie Stuart (D-Edwardsville) criticized the Republican representatives who opposed putting Amendment 1 to a vote. “They voted against even putting the Workers’ Rights Amendment on the ballot,” she said at a Labor Day rally. “We need to stay together, and vote for the people who are going to back up what that amendment stands for.”

Dean Webb, president of the Madison County Federation of Labor, said it was necessary for all Labor organizations to mobilize at the grassroots level to get out the vote and fight back against misinformation. He noted at the Labor Day there were people passing out flyers with false information geared against the amendment at the Labor Day parade in September, but he said the amendment doesn’t do anything but make permanent the existing law “and puts it into the state constitution that ‘right-to-work’ is illegal,” Webb said.

Luchtefeld pointed out at a recent Workers’ Rights Amendment rally the many battles Labor has fought in neighboring Missouri over so called “right-to-work” laws, even after voters rejected them. “That’s because the wrong party is in control of that state,” Luchtefeld said. He said in Illinois, the so-called “right-to-work” laws are “written and waiting” for a Republican majority to take over the legislature and force it into the law.

Randy Harris, chairman of the Madison County Democratic Party, pointed out at the same rally that just about all of the opposition to the Workers’ Rights Amendment is Republican.

“They have shown us who they are,” Harris said. “They can no longer say that the right-wing crazy wing of the party isn’t who they are… They’re opposed to workers, they’re opposed to families, they’re opposed to rights, to equal rights for everybody.”

Luchtefeld agreed. “It’s a countrywide problem that corporations want to get rid of Labor unions and have more control over wages, benefits and pensions that we all struggle to have and protect,” he said. “Everybody should be able to join a union.”



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