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It’s time to guarantee fundamental worker rights in Illinois

Let’s pass the Workers’ Rights Amendment!

Election Day 2022 may seem a long way off, but it’s not too early to learn about the choices you’ll be asked to make next November. For Illinois workers and our families, one of the most important decisions will be how to vote on the proposed Workers’ Rights Amendment. (Spoiler alert: The IFT urges you to vote YES!) Here’s what’s at stake.


If passed by Illinois voters next fall, the Workers’ Rights Amendment (WRA) - formally known as Senate Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 11 - would amend the Illinois Constitution to guarantee the fundamental rights of workers to unionize and collectively bargain. Put simply, the WRA would increase worker power.


How? The WRA would prevent Illinois from passing any state law or local ordinance “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 the WRA would permanently ban the passage of any so-called “right-to-work” laws in our state, which are designed to reduce worker rights and benefit big corporations.


Thanks to the efforts of IFT members and other union workers over the years, Illinois currently has no “right-to-work” laws on the books. The 27 states that do have paid the price.


Research continually shows that “right-to-work” laws are bad economic policy. A May 2021 report from the Illinois Economic Policy Institute and the Project for Middle Class Renewal at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign shows that “right-to-work” states lag behind in creating middle-class jobs and delivering economic growth. By contrast, Illinois workers earn higher wages, are more likely to have health insurance coverage, have higher rates of homeownership, and are more productive than their counterparts in “right-to-work” states. (These findings accounted for factors such as cost of living, occupation, race, gender, wages, and income.)


Voters and elected officials are learning lessons from states like West Virginia, whose governor has admitted that “right-to-work” laws failed in his state. Missouri voters overwhelmingly rejected “right-to-work” laws in 2018, recognizing that they do not lead to job creation and economic growth, as proponents falsely claim.


As we continue to address the economic issues created by the pandemic, now is the ideal time to amend the Illinois Constitution so that it advances the cause of working families and boosts the state’s economic recovery. The WRA will help do just that by ensuring that all workers have the pay, benefits, resources, and protections they deserve at a time they’re desperately needed.


Let’s help Illinois’ working women and men access good jobs and have a respected voice in their workplaces! In the months ahead, please watch your inbox and future issues of Union Link for more information and action alerts about how we can work together to pass the WRA in November 2022.


To learn about the value of collective voice, visit ift-aft.org/iftstrong.


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