Union bosses, not voters, will decide how to run Illinois if Amendment 1 passes

Mailee Smith

Staff Attorney and Director of Labor Policy

Mailee Smith
/ Labor
November 3, 2021

Union bosses, not voters, will decide how to run Illinois if Amendment 1 passes

Amendment 1 would constitutionally prohibit Illinois lawmakers from pulling back on union power. It would give government union bosses more power than voters and than those elected to represent voters’ interests.

It’s democracy 101: Voters elect lawmakers. Lawmakers represent their constituents in passing or rejecting bills. If voters don’t like what their elected officials do, they can boot them at the next election.

But a proposed amendment to the Illinois Constitution on the ballot Nov. 8, 2022, would flip democracy on its head. The proposed Amendment 1 would hand more power to union leaders than to elected representatives, leaving voters without the ability to hold anyone accountable at the polls.

Buried in the multiple provisions of Amendment 1 is the following: 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….

In other words, lawmakers’ hands will be tied. They will be unable to pass any legislation that restricts organizing or bargaining because the provisions would arguably interfere with the “fundamental right” outlined in the amendment.

Just a few examples of the power of this provision:

  • Lawmakers will not be able to restrict the types of things over which unions can demand to negotiate.
  • Lawmakers will not be able to limit government worker strikes.
  • Lawmakers will not be able to clarify what “employees” are covered by the amendment.

And perhaps most jarring, lawmakers will never be able to change a little-known provision in state law that allows many government union contracts to override conflicting laws and regulations.

No other state in the union restricts its lawmakers from passing such labor provisions.

What does this all mean?

It means union leaders can demand negotiations over virtually anything and threaten to go on strike unless their demands are met. If union leaders don’t like current laws applicable to government workers, they can demand different provisions in union contracts that will override state law.

Where does that leave voters?

Without true representation. If union leaders can perpetually rewrite laws through contrary union contract provisions, it won’t matter who voters elect. They will be powerless. Voters will have no one to hold accountable.

Amendment 1 isn’t a “workers’ rights” provision; it’s a union leadership power play.

Guaranteeing union leadership powers through a constitutional protection no other special interest group possesses would guarantee voters’ voices would weaken.

And that’s not democracy.

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