Government union power unleashed on Illinois House speaker

Mailee Smith

Senior Director of Labor Policy and Staff Attorney

Mailee Smith
September 14, 2023

Government union power unleashed on Illinois House speaker

Illinois House Speaker Chris Welch – who supported an Illinois constitutional amendment granting government unions unprecedented power – is reportedly refusing to meet with a union seeking to represent his own staff.

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, unless you oversee the Illinois House of Representatives?

The Illinois General Assembly doesn’t seem to want to play by the same rules it helped institute for other government employers. Despite Illinois’ Amendment 1 being championed by friends of unions in the Illinois General Assembly to guarantee the right of any government employees to unionize, Illinois House Speaker Chris Welch has reportedly failed to meet with Statehouse staffers who are pushing for unionization.

In a social media post, the Illinois Legislative Staff Association, the union seeking to represent legislative staffers, said, “For the last nine months, we have asked in good faith for Speaker Welch to meet with us. Despite his outspoken pro-labor rhetoric and vocal support for the right of all employees in Illinois to unionize, he is apparently intent on denying this right to his own staff.”

As of Sept. 7, the union claimed Welch had refused to engage with the union for nine months. There were no updates from the union as of Sept. 14.

Staffers’ push to organize should come as no surprise. Among other provisions, Amendment 1 grants the “fundamental right” to organize to all government workers and prohibits lawmakers from ever restricting that right.

Nearly a year after passage, the expansive reach of the amendment has been admitted by Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

Workers can collectively bargain wherever they are, and as far as I am concerned, and I believe the speaker feels the same, that that goes for every position in the state,” Pritzker said.

“It’s a time question and also a question about whether the other people who work in state government for the legislature want to be part of the union,” he added. “Nobody is preventing anybody from having a union and nobody is saying you have to be unionized.”

Even the statutorily required process for creating a union is legally questionable after the passage of Amendment 1. The amendment doesn’t provide a process to formally unionize, and the process outlined in the Illinois statutes could potentially be challenged as infringing on the fundamental right guaranteed by the amendment.

The unionization controversy within the Illinois House of Representatives should be a warning to lawmakers in other states considering similar amendments, such as Pennsylvania.

If you don’t want your own legislative staffers to unionize, perhaps you should rethink supporting an expansive, government union power grab.

Want more? Get stories like this delivered straight to your inbox.

Thank you, we'll keep you informed!