Will Illinois Give Government Worker Unions a Constitutional Right To Overrule Laws They Don’t Like?
Illinois voters next year will consider a constitutional amendment being presented as a guarantee of the right to unionize. But the proposal takes matters much further that that: It would allow collective bargaining agreements to supersede state laws, setting a dangerous precedent.
In May, Illinois lawmakers approved Senate Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 11. In order to take effect, voters will also have to approve a ballot referendum on it in November 2022. The goal, as stated by the measure’s sponsor, state Rep. Mark Evans (D–Chicago), is to “stand up for workers’ rights” by forbidding Illinois from becoming a right-to-work state. The amendment would prohibit Illinois lawmakers from passing legislation restricting public and private employee bargaining, and that includes agreements that could mandate union membership as a condition of employment.
This part of the amendment would put Illinois at odds with many neighboring states, where right-to-work laws forbid arrangements in which a person must join a union to hold a job. But Constitutional Amendment 11 goes much further than that: It bars any law that “interferes with, negates, or diminishes the right of employees to organize and bargain collectively over their wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment and workplace safety.”
This seemingly innocuous collection of conditions will have some serious repercussions when it comes to reining in misconduct by unionized public sector employees. Any law that regulates the behavior of Illinois police officers, schoolteachers, or trash collectors could be upended by a union contract.
Disciplinary procedures for public sector employees are already heavily manipulated via collective bargaining agreements, which is why it’s so hard to get rid of bad teac
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