An Illinois Circuit Court judge has rejected the efforts of the right-wing Liberty Justice Center to prevent voters from having their say on a constitutional amendment to protect workers’ rights in November.
The Liberty Justice Center, a litigation center spawned by the far-right Illinois Policy Institute, says it will appeal the ruling.
The ballot measure, which requires 60% of the vote to pass, seeks to have Illinois join a handful of states that guarantee the right to collective bargaining as part of its constitution. If successful, it would prevent future state general assemblies from passing anti-union “right-to-work” legislation without going back to the voters.
The Illinois General Assembly passed the proposed amendment, which will appear on the ballot as Amendment 1, in May 2021. If approved in November, it would establish a constitutional right for employees in Illinois to organize and bargain collectively through representatives of their choice to negotiate “wages, hours, and working conditions and to protect their economic welfare and safety at work.”
Illinois State Senator Ram Villivalam (D), who authored the measure, told the Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) that, “During the pandemic, thousands of Illinois frontline workers showed their willingness to work for the community. Passing the referendum is a way, in turn, for the communities to show workers their support.”
The measure would also explicitly bar state and local governments from adopting so-called “right-to-work” laws or ordinances. Right-to-work laws prevent unions from negotiating agreements that require all employees in a unionized workplace to contribute to the cost of union representation.
Those laws, currently in effect in 27 states, undermine unions by creating a “free rider” problem where non-union employees don’t pay dues yet benefit from the favorable wages and working conditions the union negotiates. Major corporate lobbying groups such as the National Right to Work Committee, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) and its local offshoot the American City County Exchange (ACCE) have been pushing these policies across the country for decades.
On April 21, the Liberty Justice Center and the Illinois Policy Institute filed a legal challenge to the proposed ballot measure in state court, claiming that the federal National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) preempts any state laws that regulate collective bargaining. “The state cannot adopt a measure that conflicts with federal law,” the groups contend, and therefore “cannot use taxpayer funds” to place the question on the ballot.
Seventh Judicial Circuit Judge Raylene DeWitte Grischow disagreed, saying there were “no reasonable grounds” for keeping the measure off the ballot. In her nine-page decision, Judge Grischow held that the Liberty Justice Center’s petition sought “an improper advisory opinion,” that some parts of the amendment were clearly not preempted, and that the legislature had properly placed the proposal on the ballot.
“The proposed Amendment would serve at least three permissible purposes,” Judge Grischow wrote. “First, it would create rights for public employees, which Petitioners concede is not preempted by the NLRA. Second, it would restrain the power of the General Assembly to pass laws restricting union security agreements, a subject left open to the states. Third, it would act as a state-law failsafe to preserve rights for private-sector employees in the event the federal government ever decided to abandon the NLRA.”
“There are no grounds for denying the voters the opportunity to decide whether to add the Workers’ Rights Amendment to the Illinois constitution,” Grischow concluded.
History of Anti-Union Efforts
Several years ago, the Illinois Policy Institute and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation represented the plaintiff Mark Janus in the landmark Janus v. AFSCME court case, which made its way to the U.S Supreme Court in 2017. In its ruling, the Court determined that public sector non-union members do not have to pay union “agency fees” even if they benefit from the union’s work on their behalf.
Villivalam pointed out that old and new barriers to organizing “have only exacerbated the income inequalities and wage gaps existing between diverse groups, especially the huge difference in what workers get and what management gets…. Putting collective bargaining rights into the state constitution is a way for workers, unions, and the community to move forward,” he said.
CMD examined multiple IRS filings to determine the funding sources for the groups challenging the Workers’ Rights Amendment, and found that they share the same donors backing many other political and legal fights against unions: DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund, the preferred donor conduits of the Koch political network; the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation and its Bradley Impact Fund; the Ed Uihlein Family Foundation; Searle Freedom Trust; and the State Policy Network.
As of 2020, the most recent year IRS filings for the organizations are available, the Illinois Policy Institute had $7.5 million in revenue and the Liberty Justice Center had $2.3 million in revenue.
The organizations are not alone in opposing Amendment 1. Even though the measure enjoyed bipartisan support when it passed in the state legislature last year, it has garnered the opposition of several business groups, including the Illinois Chamber of Commerce, the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, and the National Federation of Independent Business, as well as the Illinois Association of School Boards.
The implications are horrible for our state.
It puts Unions in total control of the work force from Schools ,Roads, Manufacturing andBuilding, all in order to pay the wealthy Union suits allowing them to live higher than their constituents and contribute to the political party to keep them in power.
It won’t be long before FARMING and any and ALL MOM/ POP operations will have to unionize to aquire a work force.
We all should have a God given right and American right to self negotiate anything dealing with our jobs,health,schooling and communities!
This is union power grab with no borders or guards !
Bad for the Community,State and Country!
In reality it takes away power from the persons of this state and gives it to a polity of national political
wishes wants and one sidedness!
Basically you are slave to the Unions!
Right now you can negotiate as an individual and you can walk to any new job and work directly with management to your betterment!
If you want to go union there’s a lot of emptiness on their benches ,just go join or only apply at Unionized employers your choice,it’s choice that makes us American and free people’s
Union is one choice
Right to work is another choice .
Only when it’s a true free choice is it an American virtue!
You should really do some serious research on union. Your opinion is extremely distorted. This amendment doesn’t change any laws about what unions get. It doesn’t give unions power. It very simply says that no matter what no person can take away our right to collective bargaining. Any person with the ability to read can read the amendment themselves and see that. This doesn’t force anyone to be Union. You still have the choice. This will protect us from RTW where those people who take advantage of union jobs, wages and benefits and the representation that comes with it, try to reap the benefits without putting in their fair share. Anyone in the construction field with even a minor amount of experience in their respective trade could join the union that covers that style experience. Our local unions are constantly looking to fill the retirees and jobs that we have coming to us for quality people. Right to work is a horrible choice for working families. Anyone can do their own history research on that topic and see the outcome. Wages and benefits go down. Corporate America is the winner of RTW legislation.
Barry Au Aqua
From Illinois Policy by Mailee Smith on 06/24/21
“How many businesses must Illinois lose before its politicians get the message?
In areas with a right-to-work law, workers in the private sector have the right to form unions, but nonmembers cannot be required to pay fees to a union in order to keep their jobs. Right to work already exists for workers in the public sector following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Janus v. AFSCME.
From a legal perspective, the state constitution is the wrong place to wage a battle over economic policy.
Constitutions exist to establish the structure of government and, importantly, to protect people from the government – not to force one particular interest group’s policy preferences on the public at large.
A constitutional amendment would mean the General Assembly could never allow right to work for private sector employees without first amending the state constitution again.
There’s a reason no other states have banned right to work directly in their state constitutions. It’s a drastic, politically motivated move, and it has even more severe implications for jobs in Illinois.”
Iv read the opinions produced by corporate backed sites like Illinois Policy. They’re opinion of taxes being higher because of this amendment passing is ridiculous. State workers are already union. And if you have ever read any labor law you know that no laws can allow any union to receive exactly what they demand. Unions don’t demand they negotiate. No where in history has any law allowed unions to get exactly what they want. If you have actually read this amendment you know that nowhere in this amendment does it state anything even close to that. It’s actually extremely short for anyone wanting to read it. But in all fairness, if you like the Illinois policy tax calculator, let’s make one that shows how much the median income will go down if a republican like bruce rauner we’re to pass RTW. Anyone can research for themselves what RTW has done to working families in states that have passed it. This bill would protect the entire state from RTW and related anti union laws. Which in turn would protect not only private unions but non union workers as well. If you talk to any labor economist you’ll find that unions set a standard for non union workers of the same field. So in reality EVERY working class person, union or not, no matter their party affiliation will benefit from this amendment. These opinions against this amendment are brought to you by corporate interest that do not like unions because we fight for working class citizens to make decent wages and benefits. These corporations do not want this because they would have to pay a living wage and basic benefits out of their record profits. These scare tactics from the right are decades old. This isn’t just about you and I, this is about future generations being able to have a voice to combat the corporate takeover of America. And if you think that companies will leave the state like some op-ed state, let’s look at the facts . Caterpillar just broke ground on their first building that they have built in 20 years. Boeing is currently building a massive complex at Mid America Airport in Mascoutah and Tyson is quadrupling their size of their plant in Caseyville, The storage/distribution warehouses in Edwardsville ……I could go on about all of the projects going on just within my surrounding area for hours.