Ep. 59: Ep. 59: Debunking the myths behind the ‘workers’ rights amendment’

Ep. 59: Ep. 59: Debunking the myths behind the ‘workers’ rights amendment’

Many misleading narratives surround Amendment 1, the proposed constitutional amendment at the top of the Nov. 8 ballot that proponents disingenuously call a “Workers Rights Amendment.” Mailee Smith, director of labor policy at Illinois Policy Institute, identifies the top Amendment 1 myths that have spread during election season in this week’s episode of The Policy Shop.

This week’s Policy Shop comes from Mailee Smith, staff attorney and director of labor policy at the Illinois Policy Institute.

More voters are starting to pay attention to what’s at the top of the Nov. 8 ballot – a hidden property tax hike. But depending on whom you listen to, Amendment 1 sounds like it could be a trick or a treat. Illinoisans need all the facts before voting. That’s not something proponents of Amendment 1 are offering.

Let’s set the record straight on the biggest myths about Amendment 1.

Myth 1: Amendment 1 applies to all workers.

Fact: It only affects 7% of working adults in Illinois – those employed by the government. Amendment 1 cannot apply to non-government employees. U.S. Supreme Court precedent already makes that clear. So did the proposal’s Illinois Senate sponsor. That means the “fundamental right” it creates for “employees” is really only for government workers in Illinois. Private-sector workers are already protected under the National Labor Relations Act, so most workers would see no new protections and no new rights. Any state trying to usurp federal authority would run afoul of the U.S. Constitution. So the next time you see a nurse or construction worker in a union-funded commercial during Sunday Night Football, know Amendment 1 doesn’t give those private-sector workers any new rights. The only part of Amendment 1 that could apply in the private sector is the last provision, which bans laws that would allow private-sector union workers to decide for themselves whether to join or pay a union. But that provision is a restriction on – not a right granted to – private-sector union workers, and it bucks the trend of the majority of states.

Myth 2: Three other state constitutions have provisions like Amendment 1

Fact: No states have any provisions like those in Amendment 1. Amendment 1 does four things:

  1. creates a “fundamental right” to unionize and bargain for state and local government employees;
  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.

Myth 3: Amendment 1 will help our economy and has NOTHING to do with tax hikes.

Fact: This is a new claim that has arisen as more and more people are realizing the harm this amendment would cause to their personal and business budgets. Amendment 1 will drive up taxes – specifically, property taxes – and drive out business. An Illinois Policy Institute analysis found if property tax rates continue to increase at their long-run average, the typical Illinois homeowner would pay around $2,149 more in property taxes during the next four years. For the typical Cook County homeowner, that would rise to $2,933. But Amendment 1 would likely accelerate this growth – making property taxes rise faster and higher. More demands – supported by government union leaders’ permanent right to strike to get those demands met – means even costlier contracts. See the impact on your property taxes by using our property tax calculator.

So where is the treat? Gov. J.B. Pritzker promised voters cash by way of tax rebate checks, but only $1 of every $5 promised as property tax rebates for Illinois homeowners had been sent as of Oct. 11. Pritzker has used the temporary relief to campaign on the claim his budget “lowers property taxes.” Illinois property taxes are the second highest in the nation and double the national average.

“Taxes on my property are already astronomical. I live in Park Forest and we pay some of the highest taxes in the state of Illinois. When I purchased my home I didn’t understand the process until my first tax bill came: $14,000 on a $98,000 home,” said the Rev. Phalese Binion, a former union member. “The commercial they have for the ‘Workers’ Rights Amendment’ is very misleading. They do not share that it only applies to government workers. In all honesty, if the gentleman standing in their ad isn’t a union boss, Amendment 1 won’t help him.”

The last thing nurses, construction workers or any Illinois workers need is to be tricked by the “Workers’ Rights Amendment” that uses their taxes to expand government union boss power. You can learn more using our study guide and prepare for the Nov. 8 election.

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