The Workers’ Rights Amendment might be the perfect example of ignorance and intersectionality we’ve seen on the ballot in a long time.
Does anyone know who’s really covered under the amendment? What about private sector workers? According to the amendment’s chief sponsor, State Senator Ram Villivalam, no: the amendment does not apply to the private sector. This makes sense as the National Labor Relations Act already governs private workers and Illinois cannot expand those collective-bargaining rights beyond what federal law allows.
That means only a small fraction of Illinois workers will be protected under this amendment. In other words, all the commercials and literature touting additional protections for elder care and construction workers are false.
How about advocates for police reform and their efforts to hold police officers more accountable for their misconduct? Unfortunately, any reforms to qualified immunity will be off the table as they would conflict with an unionized police officer’s constitutional right to bargain over their “working conditions, and to protect their economic welfare and safety at work.” Qualified immunity, well, qualifies.
Perhaps the most interesting impact this amendment will be on exclusive bargaining rights. For example, under current labor law, all teachers in a school district must organize under a single bargaining unit. But the amendment states “no law shall be passed that interferes with, negates, or diminishes the right of employees to organize.” Forcing a specific union on workers diminishes their organizational right, therefore the current monopoly of representation becomes unconstitutional, allowing teachers to organize however they choose. STEM and minority teachers, each in low supply with highly sought-after skill sets, can branch off on their own. No longer tied to the others, these special groups will be able to bargain for a larger share of the existing pie, perhaps to the detriment of the others left behind. “Two English Teachers, A Sub, and A Theater Place”: the possibilities are endless as nowhere does the amendment define what constitutes an actual union. Certainly, our school districts are well versed on this matter and prepared to bargain multiple teacher contracts all with varying terms and conditions, no?
Simply put, the Workers’ Rights Amendment manages to be both silly and dangerous. No one involved really thought of the permanent ramifications of such amateurish legislation. And make no mistake, this is permanent. There are no takebacks with the state constitution. In Illinois, one law rules: that of unintended consequences.