Supporters of a ballot measure to enshrine collective bargaining in the Illinois state constitution, a strategy that labor organizers might try to replicate in other states.
Amendment 1, also known as the Workers’ Rights Amendment, amends the state constitution to block the legislature from promulgating right-to-work laws in the future. Right-to-work laws, which are in place in about half the states, allow workers to decide whether to join a labor union.
With more than 80% of the votes counted as of Thursday afternoon, the proposal was winning with 58% of the vote. In order to be officially approved, it will either need to capture 60% of votes on the measure, or more than 50% of all ballots cast in the election have to support it. Union leaders said they believe they will have the votes.
“Based on the current vote count and our campaign’s internal data, it is clear that the workers’ rights amendment will pass,” said Samantha McClain, Vote Yes for Workers’ Rights campaign director. “We firmly believe that after every vote is counted, the amendment will be approved by an overwhelming majority of Illinois voters.”
Still, the libertarian-leaning think tank Illinois Policy Institute contends that it is too early for the election to be called, according to the Daily Herald.
“The fact that the vote is too close to call right now speaks to Illinoisans’ distrust in enshrining costly new provisions into the Constitution that could handcuff them for years to come,” said Matt Paprocki, the group’s president.
Proponents of the amendment argued that it would help improve working conditions and provide better pay and benefits for workers in Illinois. They also claimed that its passage will prevent the rights of workers from being pulled back in the future.
“It’s going to help us put more money in the pockets of Illinoisians,” said Joe Bowen, communications director for Vote Yes on Workers’ Rights, during a recent forum. “When working families do better, they don’t hoard it for themselves. They contribute even more to the communities that they love and call home.”
The GOP pushed back on the measure, arguing that it would make it more expensive for businesses to operate in the state and might mean that companies would move their operations, and jobs, out of Illinois.
The Illinois Policy Institute opposed the measure and claimed that its passage would lead to higher tax bills for homeowners in the Land of Lincoln.
“Already, the $75 billion in pension debt held by local governments is the main driver of Illinois’ rising property tax burden. But Amendment 1 would give government unions more extreme powers to make demands on taxpayers than have existed in any state in U.S. history, meaning property taxes could be significantly higher than $6,444 for the average family by 2026,” said Bryce Hill, director of fiscal and economic research for the Illinois Policy Institute.