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Right to Unionize

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois House passed a proposed constitutional amendment Wednesday, May 26 that would guarantee workers in the state the right to unionize.

The proposed amendment, which passed the Senate two weeks ago, would provide that employees have a “fundamental right” to organize and engage in collective bargaining over wages, hours and working conditions. It would also prohibit the state or any local government from enacting so-called “right-to-work” laws, which prohibit contracts that make union membership a condition of employment. Rep. Marcus Evans, D-Chicago, the lead sponsor of the measure in the House, framed the vote as a choice between standing up for the rights of workers or the interests of business.

“Where do you stand when you look that working mother in your community in the eye, and do you want her to have collective bargaining,” he said. “Do you want her to have representation, or do you want to follow many other states as they continue a concerted effort to take away the rights of working men and women? You’ve got to make a decision.”

But Rep. Lance Yednock, D-Ottawa, stated that collective bargaining generally leads to safer working conditions and better economic conditions for all workers.

“One of the most diabolical ways to limit collective bargaining is through so called right-to-work laws,” he said. “States that limit collective bargaining see declines in wages, benefits, training, and safety standards. And it’s a losing proposition for all workers.”

Currently, 28 states, mainly in the Deep South and Great Plains, have some form of right-to-work laws or constitutional amendments on the books, according to the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, including the neighboring states of Indiana, Kentucky, Iowa and Wisconsin.

The amendment passed the House with bipartisan support, 80-30, which was more than the three-fifths majority needed for passage. It will next be placed on the November 2022 general election ballot where it will need approval from three-fifths of all those voting on the question, or a simple majority of all ballots cast in the election, to be ratified.


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