DECATUR, Ill. (WCIA) – As the campaign season draws to a close, Senator Dick Durbin expressed his support for Amendment 1 on the ballot.
“We will make sure Illinois says clearly that our workers’ rights are going to be protected,” Durbin said at an event for labor union workers Tuesday.
The amendment, also referred to as the Workers’ Rights Amendment, would enshrine collective bargaining and the ability to negotiate hours, wages and working conditions in Illinois’ constitution.
A recent WCIA, The Hill and Emerson College poll shows 53.7% of voters plan to vote yes on the amendment.
Durbin believes the change to the state would have a nationwide impact.
While federal laws already exist that guarantee workers these rights, several nearby states like Indiana and Wisconsin have passed right to work laws, where employees can opt out of paying for union representation. The AFL-CIO calls right-to-work “a policy designed to take away rights from working people.”
Durbin said Illinois needs the extra protections against anti-union sentiments.
“State after state surrounding us, we will find ourselves a blue island in a red sea and many of these states are cutting back on the basic rights of workers,” Durbin said.
Opponents of the amendment claim that it will raise property taxes. But the amendment itself does not list any tax increases.
“This constitutional referendum grants super-legislative powers to union bosses that could only be changed by further constitutional referendums, not legislative action,” Don Tracy, the Illinois Republican Party chairman, said in a statement. “Illinois voters should reject Amendment 1 as the government union power grab and trojan horse pathway to tax increases that it is.”
The logic that opponents are using makes a few assumptions. They argue that by giving public employee unions this power, local governments will have to raise property taxes to meet the demands of the union on issues like salaries.
But the measure does not grant any new rights to unions — instead only protecting those rights in case the political climate changes.
The Illinois Chamber of Commerce opposes the amendment, saying it would lead to property tax increases and drive businesses away.
“Illinois is not going to go right-to-work in my lifetime,” Clark Kaericher from the Illinois Chamber of Commerce said last month. “I’d be more likely to win the Powerball twice, but the message that it sends and the uncertainty it creates is another reason when businesses look to relocate, they’re not going to consider Illinois.”
The amendment needs 60 percent of people to vote yes in order for it to pass, or the simple majority of all votes cast — even ones that skip the question altogether.