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Local unions are celebrating the expected passage of the workers’ rights amendment

CHICAGO — The final votes are still being counted, but local unions are already celebrating what they say is an important victory for workers.

If approved, the Workers’ Rights Amendment, officially called Ballot Amendment 1, would enshrine labor protections in the state constitution.

Union leaders said the vote faced strong anti-union opposition from big business.

Dr. Rosemary Foerer of Northern Illinois University said the amendment puts the state in a league of its own when it comes to protecting a broad range of workers.

“These are not only government workers in the budgetary sphere. These are all workers in the state, including agricultural workers, who are outside the scope of federal law,” she said.

As of Wednesday afternoon, nearly two million votes were in favor of the amendment and nearly 1.4 million said no. At this point, 87 percent of the vote is reported.

Democrats in the state House are trying to prevent what happened to states like Wisconsin in 2011, when public employees protested restrictions on collective bargaining rights.

Scholars, if passed, would make it nearly impossible for future lawmakers to take away collective bargaining rights. It will include ironclad provisions such as the fundamental right of public workers or other groups to organize into unions.

Marilee Smith of the Illinois Policy Institute said the amendment could give union leaders too much power.

“It could allow state unions to negotiate almost anything,” Smith said.

Union leaders counter, saying the Illinois Policy Institute is funded by dark money and big business.


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