9 things wrong with Illinois’ official Amendment 1 voter pamphlet

Mailee Smith

Staff Attorney and Director of Labor Policy

Mailee Smith
October 5, 2022

9 things wrong with Illinois’ official Amendment 1 voter pamphlet

A constitutionally required pamphlet intended to inform voters about Amendment 1 includes misleading and inaccurate claims. It fails to alert voters what they are really voting on, which is a property tax increase.

Illinois voters will decide Nov. 8 whether a broad labor amendment will be added to the state constitution.

Dubbed a “Workers’ Rights Amendment” by proponents, it actually includes four provisions that would drive up property taxes and give government union bosses more power than they have in any other state.

But Illinois voters won’t see the words “Workers’ Rights Amendment” at the top of the ballot. Instead, they’ll see a question labeled “Proposed Amendment to the 1970 Illinois Constitution.” That’s Amendment 1.

The Illinois Constitutional Amendment Act requires pamphlets containing explanations of proposed amendments be mailed to every registered voter in the state with arguments “for and against” the proposal.

Those pamphlets are hitting mailboxes now. But they don’t do much to help voters know how they may want to vote on Amendment 1.

The pamphlet’s “explanation” and “arguments in favor of the proposed amendment” are riddled with misleading and inaccurate claims. The section entitled “arguments against the proposed amendment” doesn’t do much better, including vague statements that don’t focus on the real issues.

Below are the six most problematic statements in the Amendment 1 guide, as well as the top three issues the pamphlet ignores altogether.

The pamphlet includes at least six misleading or confusing statements

  1. “Explanation” section: “The new section will guarantee workers the fundamental right to organize and to bargain collectively”

This statement is misleading. Any potential rights provided in the amendment can only apply to state and local government workers. That’s only about 7% of adults in Illinois. The amendment can’t apply to the other 93%.

That’s because the federal government through the National Labor Relations Act already governs private-sector collective bargaining nationwide. Any time the federal government occupies a space, it preempts state laws that would attempt to do so.

Any claims the amendment will apply to private-sector workers, including those implied in proponents’ commercials, are false.

  1. “Arguments in favor” section: “This amendment will protect workers’ and others’ safety.”

As explained above, this reference to all workers is misleading. Any potential rights provided under the amendment can only apply to state and local government workers.

  1. “Arguments in favor” section: This amendment gives worker rights to “nurses,” “construction workers,” “firefighters” and “EMTs”

The amendment will not apply to any nurses, construction workers, firefighters or EMTs who are employed in the private sector. It will only apply to workers employed by the state or a local government unit.

But all workers are already protected under separate state and federal laws, making Amendment 1 an unnecessary muddling of the laws.

Private-sector workers are already protected by the National Labor Relations Act and are given union and collective bargaining rights by the federal government.

State and local government workers in Illinois are already provided broad union and collective bargaining rights under the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act and the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act.

Those rights already include the right to unionize, bargain over wages, hours and other terms and conditions of employment, as well as go on strike.

Workers lose no rights if voters reject Amendment 1.

  1. “Arguments in favor” section: “This amendment will help our economy by putting money in workers’ pockets”

Once again, the pamphlet’s generic reference to all workers is misleading.

What’s more, the amendment will harm far more Illinoisans than it would ever help. It will drive up the cost of government. That higher cost will be passed on to all workers in the form of higher taxes, as discussed below.

  1. “Arguments in favor” section: “That will mean more money going into our communities and small businesses”

The amendment will inevitably lead to higher taxes because government union leaders will be able to demand virtually anything during contract negotiations and will have a permanent right to go on strike to get those demands met.

Government union contracts already cost taxpayers money. But Amendment 1 broadens the demands government unions could make beyond wages and benefits. Those increased demands mean government contracts would cost even more money.

And that means taxpayers – both individuals and businesses – would be stuck in an endless loop of higher government costs and rising taxes.

Illinois already has a reputation for being one of the worst places in the nation to do business. That has been evidenced by major companies, such as Caterpillar, Boeing and Citadel, moving their headquarters to more business-friendly states.

Research shows the contracts negotiated by state government unions have hurt our economy and cut job creation.

Amendment 1 would enshrine permanent power for government unions in the state constitution, which would mean higher taxes, higher costs and potentially costly litigation for business owners trying to figure out the limits to a poorly worded constitutional change. 

  1. “Arguments against” section: “A fundamental right provided to all citizens under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution is the right to free speech and freedom of association”

This statement is confusing.

The point appears to be that both government and private-sector workers already have collective bargaining rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution’s freedom of association guarantee, and that won’t go away.

The section then focuses mainly on just one of the four provisions found in the amendment: a ban on right to work.

That portion of the amendment permanently requires private-sector workers in unionized workplaces to pay a union just to keep their jobs. The pamphlet fails to explain this ban runs contrary to the economic policies in 27 other states. It also flies in the face of a recent report showing right-to-work states have added 1.3 million jobs since 2020, while non-right-to-work states have lost 1.1 million jobs.

State and local government workers will continue to have a right not to pay a union, per the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Janus v. AFSCME.

The “arguments against” section also fails to mention the amendment is a tax hike in disguise, will hand power over the people to government unions and that no other state constitution has a similar amendment, as discussed below.

The pamphlet ignores at least three other problems with Amendment 1

  1.  The amendment is a tax hike in disguise

Meeting the virtually limitless demands of government unions will cost money. That cost will be passed on to taxpayers.

Passing Amendment 1 will lead to higher property taxes in Illinois, with the increase conservatively estimated at $2,149 for the typical household during the next four years.

This estimate is based on the long-run average growth rate of Illinois property tax bills. But Amendment 1 would likely accelerate that growth, expanding the bargaining power of government union bosses to negotiate over a near endless array of subjects, ultimately forcing residents to pay the bill for costly contract concessions that carry more weight than state law and don’t exist in any other state. Exactly how much faster is an open question.

Property taxes are just one form of government revenue. Illinois has a history of raising taxes to make ends meet. Just since Gov. J.B. Pritzker took office, there have been 24 new taxes and fees implemented in Illinois that total over $5 billion.

No tax rate would be safe from the rising costs brought about by Amendment 1.

  1.  The amendment would allow government unions to override more than 350 state laws

Government union contracts created under Amendment 1 would carry the weight of the state constitution, allowing government unions to override more than 350 state laws.

There is already precedent in Illinois law for some union contracts to trump state law. Amendment 1 makes that apply to all government union contracts.

If union leaders don’t like a specific state provision – such as background checks for government workers – they can simply contradict the law in the union contract. Whatever language is in the union contract wins out.

This includes at least 38 provisions in the School Code and 11 provisions regulating the Department of Children and Family Services. Government union leaders could also demand government union contracts be kept secret.

And because the amendment gives government unions a permanent right to strike, union leaders would be able to walk out on residents – leaving them without needed services – to strong-arm government leaders into caving to their demands.

  1. No other state constitution in the nation has this sort of amendment

Proponents claim Amendment 1 is similar to amendments in other state constitutions. But not a single state constitution has an amendment as extreme as Amendment 1.

Amendment 1 does four things: 1) creates a “fundamental right” to unionize and bargain, on par with the freedoms of speech and religion; 2) expands bargaining beyond wages and benefits to include broad new subjects, including “economic welfare”; 3) prohibits lawmakers from enacting taxpayer- or business-friendly reforms; and 4) bans right to work.

No state constitution includes any of those provisions, let alone all four of them. That includes states frequently cited by proponents, such as Hawaii, Missouri and New York.

For more information on Amendment 1, visit Get the facts: Amendment 1 study guide.

To see what Amendment 1 would do to you property taxes, see our Amendment 1 property tax calculator.

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