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With Passage Of Workers’ Rights Amendment, Backers Say Illinois Has ‘Strongest Worker Protections In The Nation’

The vote means a change to the Illinois Constitution to protect collective bargaining and prohibit lawmakers from passing right-to-work laws.

Joe Whittemore, a teacher at Chalmers Elementary School, holds a sign while a car caravan in support of the Chicago Teachers Union takes place around City Hall on the fourth day of no school for CPS students amid ongoing challenges with the pandemic, on Jan. 10, 2022.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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CHICAGO — A week after the midterm elections, an amendment to Illinois’ constitution that protects workers’ rights and blocks right-to-work laws has passed.

The Associated Press called the race Tuesday.

The measure needed 60 percent of yes votes from people weighing in on the question or a favorable vote from the majority of all people who voted in the election. It did not clear the higher threshold, but it received 58.4 percent of the vote with all precincts reporting, securing passage, according to the AP and the Tribune.

The amendment had close to 59 percent of voters in support according to early election results last week, prompting supporters to claim victory. More than 2.1 million people voted in its favor, according to the Tribune.

“Being able to protect everyone’s ability to step up and organize their workplace is a critical component to making sure everyone has access to some higher paying jobs and safer workplaces,” Joe Bowen, spokesman for the Vote Yes for Workers’ Rights group, told the AP.

The measure, which was the first question on ballots, adds a Worker’s Rights section to the state’s Bill of Rights, providing workers “the fundamental right to organize and to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing.”

The measure will provide protections to workers and unions by prohibiting lawmakers from passing right-to-work laws, codifying workers’ rights to join and form unions and protecting collective bargaining.

Right-to-work laws — already enacted in many more conservative states — make it so workers are not required to join labor unions when getting certain jobs. Opponents have said they weaken unions and ultimately hurt workers, while supporters say they put a rein on unions.

Unions rallied around the measure, saying it will cement bargaining rights for workers looking to negotiate fair contracts, conditions and wages, according to WTTW.

Detractors said the amendment would benefit the pocketbooks of unions, dissuade private companies from doing business in Illinois and give workers an upper hand in negotiations, according to the Sun-Times.

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