8 reasons Illinois voters should reject Amendment 1
Illinois voters will decide Nov. 8 whether to adopt a radical amendment to the Illinois Constitution that would hike taxes and empower special interests. Those are just two of eight reasons why Amendment 1 is bad for Illinoisans.
Two years after voters rejected a progressive income tax amendment that would have been a blank check for politicians to hike taxes on the middle class and retirees, the same groups who pushed that “fair tax” are asking voters to approve another tax hike on Nov. 8.
This time they’re hiding their intentions. Disingenuously dubbed a “workers’ rights amendment” by its proponents, Amendment 1 is in reality a radical change to the Illinois Constitution that exists in no other state and promises to drive up what taxpayers pay for government workers.
The amendment was written so broadly it leads to a host of alarming consequences for Illinois residents. Not only would it give special interest groups unchecked power to override the will of the people – granting union leaders the ability to nullify more than 350 state laws – and guarantee higher taxes, but the amendment itself is also unconstitutional.
Here are eight reasons Illinoisans should vote “no” in November:
1. Amendment 1 gives government union leaders unchecked power
Amendment 1 includes four provisions:
1) a “fundamental right” to organize and bargain
2) a requirement to negotiate over not just traditional subjects of bargaining, but also additional subjects such as “economic welfare”
3) a prohibition on ever diminishing those rights
4) a prohibition on right-to-work laws.
Taken together, the broad language of Amendment 1 doesn’t just guarantee a right to bargain over typical labor issues such as wages and benefits. It is a “fundamental right” – on par with freedom of speech and religion – to bargain over virtually anything. And that could potentially include political issues, such as demands related to “restorative justice” and defunding the police.
At the same time, the amendment prohibits lawmakers from ever restricting which subjects can be bargained for or limiting the length of union contracts.
2. Amendment 1 is unconstitutional
Amendment 1 applies to all “employees” in Illinois – both in the private and public sectors.
But the National Labor Relations Act governs private-sector collective bargaining nationwide. Anytime the federal government occupies a space, it preempts state laws that would attempt to do so.
And that means Amendment 1 crosses the line. Because it regulates private-sector collective bargaining, it violates the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution – making the amendment itself unconstitutional.
3. Amendment 1 guarantees higher taxes and debt in Illinois
Research shows states with stronger government unions have more debt. Already, Illinois has the third-most debt per taxpayer of any state and is among the top for highest taxes.
Under Amendment 1, there is no limit on what government unions can demand, no limit on what state and local politicians can give away through negotiations, and no requirement that government units be able to pay for new costs.
Taxpayers will be forced to pay for whatever generous contracts union leaders negotiate. That will mean higher property taxes, which are already the second-highest in the nation.
And of course, the amendment itself prohibits lawmakers from ever enacting any commonsense limits.
Amendment 1 would mean Illinois’ $317 billion pension debt would continue to balloon while hurting the state economy and job growth, and driving more people out of Illinois. And it would mean the high state and local tax burden would continue to increase to pay for union demands that have already risen beyond what taxpayers can afford, while spending on vital programs continues to fall.
4. Amendment 1 would make Illinois an even worse place to do business
Amendment 1 would solidify Illinois’ reputation as one of the worst places to do business in the country. The current exodus of jobs would get worse, and the economy would suffer.
Additionally, the unconstitutional conflict Amendment 1 creates between federal and state law would generate legal questions that must be decided by the courts. Private-sector employers could face unfair labor practice claims by failing to comply with Amendment 1. The result would be expensive, patchwork litigation in which employers would be left to fend for themselves as issues arise. No private employer would want to be the “test case” for that sort of litigation.
5. Amendment 1 would allow government union leaders to nullify more than 350 state laws
Amendment 1 could grant union leaders the right to negotiate anything, and the union contracts created under Amendment 1 would carry constitutional weight.
That means government unions could override state laws. If union leaders don’t like a specific state provision – such as background checks for teachers – they could simply contradict the law in the union contract. Whatever language is in the union contract would win out.
That means unions could override more than 350 provisions currently on the books in Illinois.
A provision requiring “background information” on employees of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services – the department charged with protecting children who are reported abused or neglected – could be overridden in the union’s contract with the state.
So could the provision prohibiting employment of “sexually dangerous” persons.
On the education side, a union could decide the state’s licensure qualifications are just too strenuous and do away with a licensure requirement altogether in a school district contract.
In fact, unions could undermine at least 11 provisions in Illinois’ Children and Family Services Act and another 38 in its School Code – just two acts among thousands in Illinois statutes – with the backing of the state constitution.
And that’s just the start. The language of Amendment 1 is so broad it’s hard to predict every potential state law or local ordinance that could be overpowered by a union contract.
6. Amendment 1 would allow elected leaders to unionize
Amendment 1 provides a right to unionize to all “employees,” without restriction. That means employees not historically allowed to unionize would have a “fundamental right” to do so under Amendment 1 – including elected officials.
What’s more, the language would prohibit lawmakers from passing a law excluding elected officials or other high-ranking public officials from the definition of “employee.” That means members of the Illinois General Assembly, city mayors and county sheriffs could have a new right to unionize.
A push to unionize upper-level government officials isn’t far-fetched. In fact, it’s already happening in Illinois and other states. Just this year, the Illinois House of Representatives passed a bill that would allow principals in Chicago to unionize. The state of Washington enacted a law allowing collective bargaining by legislative employees – meaning employees responsible for advising and assisting lawmakers and pushing legislation behind the scenes will be beholden to unions.
7. Amendment 1 would be the most extreme labor law in the nation
No other state constitution includes any of the provisions in Amendment 1, let alone all four of them. In fact, 28state constitutions don’t mention labor issues at all.
But if Amendment 1 passes in Illinois, other states may follow. Unions often run legislation in a test state before trying in other states or even at the federal level. For example, California’s AB 5, which effectively redefined independent contractors as employees to force them into unionization, was mimicked by provisions in a version of the federal Protecting the Right to Organize Act, or PRO Act. Washington state provisions used to bolster union representation of home-care providers funded through Medicaid were included in a version of the Build Back Better Act.
Rejecting Amendment 1 in Illinois could discourage union leaders from attempting similar power grabs in other states.
8. Rejecting Amendment 1 would preserve the status quo, with government employees maintaining some of the broadest labor protections in the country
No employees would lose rights if Amendment 1 is rejected. Private-sector workers would remain protected by the National Labor Relations Act, and government-sector workers would remain protected by the Illinois Labor Relations Act or the Illinois Education Labor Relations Act.
In fact, Illinois’ labor laws already provide some of the broadest protections in the country to state and local government employees — none of which would change if Amendment 1 is struck down.
What’s more, Illinois would not become a right-to-work state if the amendment is rejected. While the amendment includes a ban on right to work, Illinois is not currently a right-to-work state. All the amendment would do in that regard is prevent Illinois from ever becoming a right-to-work state in the future.
The bottom line: rejecting Amendment 1 would not hurt any employees in the state of Illinois. Rejecting it would protect taxpayers and an economy that needs every advantage it can get.