Amending the Illinois Constitution is no easy feat. Article XIV, entitled “Constitutional Revision,” provides the legal procedures for making changes to the supreme law of the State. These provisions require that a proposed amendment be placed on a ballot for Illinois voters and approved by either three-fifths of those who vote on the amendment or by a majority of those voting in the relevant election altogether to be adopted. The current Illinois Constitution was adopted in 1970 and has been amended 14 times—the last amendment passed in 2016.
In late May, legislators took the first step in the amendment process: both chambers passed Senate Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 11 (“SLCRA 11”), which will appear on the ballot during the November 2022 election. If adopted by voters, this provision would amend the Illinois Bill of Rights to include a “Workers’ Rights Section” establishing the fundamental right of workers to organize and bargain collectively for their interests regarding the wages, hours, and conditions of their work.
It is no secret that Illinois has a long history of collective bargaining and worker representation. Indeed, the percentage of unionized workers in Illinois has remained consistently high relative to the rest of the United States. However, this amendment presents strong protections for unions by effectively preventing legislators from passing right-to-work laws for private-sector employees in Illinois. Right-to-work laws entitle employees to work in unionized workplaces without joining a union or paying union dues, as is the traditional rule and practice. In 2018, the Supreme Court held that collecting “fair share” fees from non-unionized public employees is an unconstitutional restriction of employees’ free speech rights. While many union powers emerged unhindered after that decision, legislators have shown support for labor unions throughout the State’s history.
Employers and employees should keep an eye on the status of the Resolution, as the November 2022 election is a little over a year away. Leading up to the election, the Secretary of State will release educational information to voters on the proposed amendment which will highlight the arguments in favor of and opposing its adoption. Be sure to check back in with The Workplace Report for more information on the status of the Resolution.