Illinois voters have endorsed a ballot measure to amend the state’s constitution to codify the right of workers to organize and bargain collectively, according to the AP which has called the race.
In order to pass, the amendment to the state's constitution required 60% of those voting on the question to vote “yes” or 50% of all ballots to be in favor of the question. While it appears the question did not reach the 60% bar, it garnered nearly 2.15 million “yes” votes out of a little more than 4 million total votes cast. With nearly all votes counted, the AP stated that it met the needed 50% of all votes cast.
The “Workers' Rights Amendment,” as it was dubbed, also would prohibit any law from being passed in the state that would interfere with those rights.
Ed Maher, a spokesperson for International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150, applauded the measure's passage.
“It will promote higher wages and benefits for workers by protecting organizing rights and collective bargaining rights,” he said.
He noted that Illinois, unlike other Midwestern states such as Indiana and Wisconsin, is not a right-to-work state.
“Right-to-work laws across the country drive down wages, benefits, safety standards and the number of workers who have health care and those types of things,” Maher said. “Prohibiting the state of Illinois from passing a right-to-work law will support the wage and benefit levels that Illinois workers currently enjoy.”
Alicia Martin, president and CEO of Associated Builders and Contractors of Illinois, said in an email Nov. 9 that the measures will have negative impacts.
“The amendment limits the Illinois legislature, governor, city councils, county boards and every other elected official or governing body in creating any law or ordinance now or in the future regarding wages, benefits and working conditions," she said in an email. "The amendment also allows any public union to negotiate new issues at the bargaining table. This would include police, fire and other public safety employees to bargain over the right to strike."
Martin noted that "the amendment raises the question of whether a public employee can opt out of a union or not without the loss of their job. What is in question is whether the U.S. Supreme Court’s Janus decision will hold."
In 2018, the court ruled 5-4 that an Illinois law requiring non-union members to pay agency fees for the union to engage in collective bargaining and related activities amounted to an unconstitutional compulsion of speech in violation of the First Amendment.
Jacob Huebert, president of the Liberty Justice Center, which opposed the amendment, said it is not needed and will not affect private construction companies.
“Federal law protects and regulates collective bargaining in the private sector," he said in an email. "This attempt to create a state-law right to private-sector collective bargaining on top of that violates federal law and the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution."
He said that the amendment will not affect private-sector construction firms because their collective bargaining is still exclusively governed by the National Labor Relations Act.