Illinois voters have approved an amendment to the state constitution guaranteeing the right to bargain collectively.
The measure in the November election was closely watched in Illinois and beyond as a gauge of public support for the labor movement, which has lost ground for years in conservative-led states. Unions groups say it could signal a new chapter in the struggle over workers' rights as U.S. union ranks have grown as everyone from coffee shop baristas to warehouse workers seeks to organize. They view it as a way to ensure workers will always be able to use their collective clout to secure better pay, hours and working conditions. They also say it will prevent the Legislature, should it undergo a shift to the right, from passing a so-called right-to-work law that would allow workers covered by union contracts to not pay dues.
"Being able to protect everyone's ability to step up and organize their workplace is a critical component to making sure everyone has access to some higher paying jobs and safer workplaces," said Joe Bowen, spokesman for the Vote Yes for Workers' Rights group. "Specifically, you've certainly seen a lot of abuses -- Starbucks baristas or folks who might work at Amazon warehouses. But these historical examples have existed for generations and it's really im-portant that we do what we can to secure these rights for Illinoisans."