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How to find the hidden tax hike on your November Ballot

By Staff Attorney & Director of Labor Policy Mailee Smith from

The Wall Street Journal told readers last week that Amendment 1 is bad news for Illinois.

"Public unions already dominate government in Illinois, and Democratic lawmakers now want to amend the constitution to entrench that power and block reforms. Those are the stakes of Amendment 1, which will appear on the November ballot," writes the editorial board in the piece titled, "A Big Labor Takeover in Illinois." I was lucky enough to spend hours talking with the Journal's team about the Amendment, which I've studied for the better part of a year. It's the first thing you'll see on your ballot this November, yet many Illinoisans still have little idea what Amendment 1 is – or does. What is it, exactly? Unions have branded the constitutional question as the “Workers’ Rights Amendment,” and they’re spending millions of dollars on misleading TV ads to promote it. But Illinois voters won’t see the words “Workers’ Rights Amendment” at the top of the ballot. Instead, they’ll see a question labeled “Proposed Amendment to the 1970 Illinois Constitution.” That’s Amendment 1. What will it do? The bottom line is simple: Amendment 1 is a hidden tax hike that would worsen Illinois’ business climate and hit taxpayers’ wallets. Illinois Policy Institute research shows, if approved, Amendment 1 would:

  • Guarantee higher taxes and debt in Illinois, including an estimated $2,100 property tax hike. This is a conservative estimate, assuming the rapid growth of Illinois’ property tax burden holds steady. It’s likely property taxes would grow at an even faster rate because Amendment 1 would give Illinois government unions unprecedented bargaining powers that don’t exist in any other state.

  • Worsen Illinois’ reputation as one of the most unfriendly states in the nation for small businesses. Illinois would become the only state to decree union powers as untouchable, putting the weight of the Illinois Constitution behind union bosses’ unparalleled authority. Amendment 1 would give them the ability to strike over a virtually limitless list of demands, to override state law through their contracts, and to guarantee that taxpayers and lawmakers would have an extremely difficult time reversing course. The cost of filling those demands would fall on the businesses and families paying taxes.

  • Prevent commonsense, good-government reforms to use taxpayer dollars more efficiently — and potentially overturn more than 350 existing Illinois laws. That’s because the way Amendment 1 is written, it would allow government unions to nullify state laws simply by including contrary provisions in their union contracts. Here’s how it would play out: The broad language of Amendment 1 doesn’t just guarantee a right to bargain over typical labor issues such as wages and benefits. Instead, it adds the generic terms “safety at work” and “economic welfare” to the mix of negotiable subjects, making the issues that can be negotiated virtually unlimited. Those limitless provisions could then void state laws to the contrary.

  • Grant government union bosses more power than those in any other state, by far. Amendment 1 does four things: 1) creates a “fundamental right” to unionize and bargain, on par with the freedoms of speech and religion; 2) expands bargaining beyond wages and benefits to include broad new subjects, including “economic welfare”; 3) prohibits lawmakers from enacting taxpayer- or business-friendly reforms; and 4) bans right to work. No other state constitution has any one of these provisions, let alone all four of them, making it the most extreme union amendment in the nation.

Who supports Amendment 1?

Organizations that filed witness slips in support of the constitutional amendment in the Illinois General Assembly, or have given money to the ballot initiative, include:

  • AFSCME Council 31

  • Chicago Teachers Union

  • Illinois AFL-CIO

  • Illinois Federation of Teachers

  • Illinois Pipe Trades Association

  • SEIU Healthcare Illinois-Indiana

  • Teamsters Joint Council 25

Who opposes Amendment 1? Organizations that filed witness slips opposing the constitutional amendment in the Illinois General Assembly include:

  • Associated Builders & Contractors

  • Illinois Association of School Boards

  • Illinois Chamber of Commerce

  • Illinois Manufacturers' Association

  • Illinois Municipal League

  • National Federation of Independent Business

  • Technology & Manufacturing Association

For more information about Amendment 1, visit our website.

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