Election 2022

Illinois Workers' Rights Amendment Goes Before Voters in 2022 Election

Youngrae Kim for The Washington Post via Getty Images

In November’s election, Illinois voters will be asked whether they wish to add constitutional protections for workers who are seeking to unionize.

Specifically, the Workers’ Rights Amendment question on the 2022 ballot will ask voters whether they wish to establish a constitutional right for employees to organize and bargain collectively, so that they may negotiate “wages, hours and working conditions and to protect their economic welfare and safety at work.”

The synopsis of the bill, as crafted by the General Assembly, reads:

"(The bill) proposes to amend the Bill of Rights Article of the Illinois Constitution. Provides that 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. Provides that 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. Provides that these provisions are controlling over home rule powers.”

The amendment would specifically amend Article 1 of the state’s constitution. That article essentially mirrors the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution, while also providing protections in other areas as well, including prohibiting discrimination based on sex and discrimination based on physical or mental handicaps.

The amendment would also amend Article 7, which sets guidelines for powers given to local governments under “home rule” provisions in the constitution.

In order to pass, the amendment would need 60% approval by the electorate in November.

While the amendment was placed on the ballot in bipartisan votes by both chambers of the General Assembly, there has been some criticism of the bill from the right side of the political spectrum.

The state’s Republican Party has come out in opposition to the measure, citing research by the conservative thinktank Illinois Policy Institute that shows that the amendment could cause property tax rates to accelerate faster to help pay for concessions given to public union workers who may seek higher waves and better benefits thanks to the enshrinement of collective bargaining into the state constitution.

Some business groups, including the Illinois Chamber of Commerce and the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, also oppose the amendment.

In contrast, labor groups representing both public and private workers have largely supported the measure, including the Chicago Teachers’ Union, the Illinois chapter of the AFL-CIO and the SEIU.

Illinois Democrats, including Gov. J.B. Pritzker, have also expressed support for the amendment. 

“Worker safety and economic security is a fundamental right of all workers from domestic workers to PHDs,” said Illinois AFL-CIO President Tim Drea in a statement. “Everybody deserves a safe workplace and economic security.”

If the amendment were to pass, it would effectively ban “right-to-work” laws, according to experts.

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