On the ballot: Illinois voters to decide on Workers' Rights Amendment

Illinois Sen. Tammy Duckworth was in south suburban Will County Friday afternoon, urging support for a proposed amendment to the state constitution that's at the top of the fall ballot.

It's the so-called Workers’ Rights Amendment that would prohibit the passage of anti-union, right-to-work laws.

"The first vote that you cast is going to defend the right for our workers to unionize," Duckworth said.

Those laws have been adopted in Indiana, Wisconsin and other neighboring states.


Illinois unions began pushing the amendment when former Gov. Bruce Rauner called for a right-to-work law, which typically weakens union bargaining power.

But critics of the Workers’ Rights Amendment say it will strengthen government unions and force tax increases.

"These costs are so high that we now have the highest property taxes in the country," said Ted Dabrowski of Wirepoints.org. "If they get more powers enshrined in the constitution, and that's why they want it, right? They wouldn't want it unless it gave them something more. They want more powers. And, if they're enshrined in the constitution, well then…they're [taxes] going up!"

"We would suggest this amendment has nothing to do with taxes. It has everything to do with boosting wages for middle-class workers," said Marc Poulos, executive director of the Indiana, Illinois and Iowa Foundation for Fair Contracting.

That is the key argument made by supporters of the Workers’ Rights Amendment.

"Employees in strong collective bargaining states earn 14% more and are nine percent more likely to have health insurance coverage," Poulos said.

"If government workers get more pay, who pays for it? Ordinary people and that's the key," Dabrowski countered.

"That's what they're really afraid of: workers making more money," Poulos replied.

To become part of the state constitution, the Workers’ Rights Amendment needs to win 60% of those voting on the question, or 50% plus one of all those who vote by Nov. 8.

One recent poll showed it's very close.