Ep. 53: Illinois vs. Tennessee

Ep. 53: Illinois vs. Tennessee

Voters in both Tennessee and Illinois face an Amendment 1 on their respective Election Days. But they’re very different amendments with very different outcomes that will drive the two states in very different directions. Mailee Smith tells the Policy Shop how Tennessee’s amendment will help bolster its business environment while Illinois’ amendment will have the opposite effect.

This week’s Policy Shop is by Staff Attorney & Director of Labor Policy Mailee Smith.

Tennessee versus Illinois: If this were a Big 10 versus SEC matchup, the Vols would have home field advantage and would be starting the game with a 50-point lead.

Tennessee is a fast-growing state fostering a business-friendly climate that allows employees to make their own choices in the workplace. Illinois is losing the battle for population and jobs.

Tennessee voters and Illinois voters will both face a big decision this November: They’ll have to vote “yes” or “no” on their own ballot questions about unions called Amendment 1.

But Amendment 1 looks wildly different depending on whether you’re in Tennessee or Illinois.

Tennessee: Tennessee voters will be deciding whether to amend their state constitution to add a new section to make it illegal for workplaces to require mandatory labor union membership for employees as a condition of employment. The shorthand for this policy is “right to work.”

Illinois: Our Amendment 1 centers on the cost of government – do we want it to go up or down? Amendment 1, at the top of the November ballot, would lock in extreme powers for government union leaders, who already have hefty financial influence over politicians across the state. So, it’s bizarre they rammed through a ballot question asking voters to give them even more power. Yet, that’s what Amendment 1 would do. The move would cement Illinois’ status as an anti-business state, forcing taxpayers to cover costly provisions that arise out of the contracts created through this amendment. Under the Illinois amendment, union leaders would be able to override more than 350 state laws by bargaining provisions into their contracts. Those contracts would not just have the backing of the state’s labor relations acts, but also the backing of the Illinois Constitution. That means the cost of government would go up … and so would our taxes.

Bye bye, business: With Illinois laws becoming more unfriendly to business, Amendment 1 could drive even more away. We’ve already seen Boeing, Citadel and Caterpillar take their businesses elsewhere. Illinois small businesses are planning layoffs in September – 11% of them. Portillo’s, a hot dog and Italian beef restaurant brand synonymous with Chicago and Illinois, is focusing its expansion on out-of-state locations that treat businesses better. CEO Michael Osanloo said Arizona, Florida and Texas will make up “at least the majority – if not the vast majority” of the expansion.

A hidden tax hike: Supporters have failed to reveal Amendment 1 would grant government union bosses the most extreme powers in the nation, including the ability to override state law. If Amendment 1 passes, Illinoisans will would be forced to pay for the ever-increasing cost of broad new provisions created under the amendment. Illinois’ property taxes have consistently grown faster than taxpayer’s ability to pay for them. If property tax rates continue to increase at their long-run rates, the typical Illinois homeowner, with a home currently valued at approximately $248,000, would see a $2,100 property tax increase – and that’s a conservative estimate, assuming property taxes grow at the status quo rate.

Pay attention: Though government unions have funded a handful of pro-Amendment 1 ads, you won’t see the same ad blitz for Amendment 1 that you experienced during the progressive income tax fight in 2020, and that’s by design. Government unions bosses want voters to view this amendment as harmless. The wording of the amendment itself seems innocuous, right?

(a) Employees shall have the fundamental right to organize and to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing for the purpose of negotiating wages, hours, and working conditions, and to protect their economic welfare and safety at work. 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 work place safety, including any law or ordinance that prohibits the execution or application of agreements between employers and labor organizations that represent employees requiring membership in an organization as a condition of employment.

(b) The provisions of this Section are controlling over those of Section 6 of Article VII.

Innocuous? Not close. Amendment 1 is a tax hike in disguise. You may not realize you’re voting on a tax hike, but if Amendment 1 passes, that’s exactly what you and the rest of us will get as the cost of government soars year after year.

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