Government union bosses may get permanent special treatment in Illinois

Mailee Smith

Staff Attorney and Director of Labor Policy

Mailee Smith
/ Labor
May 26, 2021

Government union bosses may get permanent special treatment in Illinois

A proposed Illinois constitutional amendment, SJRCA 11, would give government unions unchecked, unlimited power.

Government unions in Illinois already have tremendous power over residents. Data shows the contracts negotiated by the state’s government unions have hurt Illinois’ economy and cut job creation.

But that isn’t enough for government union bosses. Now they are pushing to have that power permanently enshrined in the state’s constitution – to the detriment of every Illinoisan.

A proposed amendment, Senate Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 11, is framed as a right-to-work ban, but that doesn’t tell the true story.

The real thrust is to give government unions in Illinois unlimited power – forever.

The amendment provides that “no law shall be passed that interferes with, negates, or diminishes the right of employees to organize and bargain collectively over their wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment and workplace safety….”

That means government unions will be permanently allowed to negotiate anything and everything into their collective bargaining agreements. And they will have a right to go on strike to have their demands met.

We’ve already seen how union power played out for the state’s public-school students this year. Teachers’ unions used collective bargaining to shut down efforts to get kids back into school buildings. Parents saw they have no say in decisions affecting their kids.

SJRCA 11 would give unions such as the Chicago Teachers Union a permanent right to walk out on students. Lawmakers wouldn’t be able to pull back on union strike rights, even if they wanted to.

And police reform? Forget it. Police unions will have a permanent right to negotiate provisions into contracts that inhibit the investigation and discipline of bad actors.

What’s more, union contracts would permanently overrule other state and local laws. There’s already a provision in Illinois law that gives union contracts more weight than state and local laws if there is a conflict.

A constitutional amendment enshrining current labor provisions as “fundamental rights” would mean lawmakers are handing over power to unelected, unaccountable union bosses. Whatever is in a collective bargaining agreement will be the law of the land.

The state already has the highest tax burden in the nation, according to WalletHub – 39% above the national average. During the past 20 years, state spending on pensions has mushroomed over 533% while state spending on social services has dropped by 15%.

But taxes would get even worse under SJRCA 11. The amendment would constitutionally guarantee future tax hikes just to pay for union benefits, which would only continue to become more and more costly if unions can negotiate anything into contracts and lawmakers’ hands are tied.

Illinois’ government workers don’t need this amendment. They are already granted broad rights through the Illinois Educational Labor Relations Act, for public education employees, and the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act, for other state and local government employees.

Plus, the Illinois Constitution is where government operations are defined – not where a certain economic policy is favored or where one group gains special treatment at the expense of others.

SJRCA 11 isn’t about workers’ rights. It’s a hostile takeover of the entire state.

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