From Kevin Bessler at thecentersquare.com
(The Center Square) – For the first time in five years, union membership is up in Illinois just as a battle is brewing over an amendment on the November ballot regarding collective bargaining.
According to the Illinois Economic Policy Institute, Illinois gained about 16,000 union members last year even as the number of workers in unions declined nationally.
Union membership has been on the decline in Illinois, especially since the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2018 Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 decision which allows state and local government workers to continue their employment without being forced to pay dues to a union. Unions argue they should get dues from such employees for bargaining, legal, and related services unions provide.
Executive director and co-author of the Illinois Economic Policy Institute Frank Manzo IV said the pandemic may be behind some of the numbers.
“The last two years revealed the importance of job quality and the data shows a clear link between union membership and better outcomes for workers, and that is why we are seeing new organized efforts in the workplace,” Manzo said.
Overall, Illinois’ public sector unionization rate has fallen at nearly double the rate of the private sector during this period, according to the report.
The Illinois legislature placed a labor-focused measure on the November ballot, one that would constitutionally protect the right to collective bargaining. It is called Amendment 1, and would also prohibit future enactment of Right-to-Work legislation.
Critics say if Amendment 1 passes, it will lead to further tax increases for Illinois residents.
Jacob Huebert, president of the Liberty Justice Center, called Amendment 1 a scam and said it would give too much power to unions.
“This thing presents itself to voters as though it is going to do something for everyone, when in fact, really it's only going to give enhanced collective bargaining rights to public sector unions in Illinois,” Huebert said.
A new Gallup poll shows 71% of respondents said they approve of unions, up slightly from last year, but 58% of nonunion workers in the U.S. said they're “not interested at all” in joining a union.
The Liberty Justice Center has been going to court in an attempt to get Amendment 1 off the November ballot. Huebert says Illinois’ pro-union stance is obviously not working out.
“How has public sector unions helped Illinois’ economy so far?” Huebert said. “They advocate for the big spending and the big tax increases that are driving residents and businesses out of this state.”