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How the New Illinois Workers' Rights Law Helps Workers

July 12, 2023

In November 2022, voters in Illinois approved a new law called the Illinois Workers’ Rights Amendment (IWRA) that guarantees all workers collective and organizing bargaining rights that promise to help workers in many ways. However, the new law is complicated, so if you have questions about it, our Schaumburg employee rights lawyer can help you.

What Is The IWRA?

The Illinois Workers’ Rights Amendment contains new language for the state constitution that reaffirms all Illinois workers’ rights to bargain and organize through their chosen representatives to negotiate hours, wages, and working conditions. They also are authorized to protect their safety and economic welfare on the job.

The law also states that local governments are not allowed to pass laws interfering with Illinois workers' rights to organize and collectively bargain. This is called a blocking regulation, which protects workers from other laws that could be passed to counteract the IWRA.

The Economic Policy Institute states that the amendment also contains detailed language that creates a firewall against attacks against workers’ rights and to unionize. These are, the Institute states, threats to repeal or undermine public sector employees’ right to collectively bargain and efforts to reduce collective bargaining rights with ‘right-to-work’ (RTW) laws. For example, RTWs typically try to prohibit employers and unions from inserting union security agreements into union contracts.

The IWRA May Be Preempted The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA)

The NLRA and other federal laws also protect collective bargaining rights of most workers. But there are questions about how much the NLRA preempts much of the material in the Illinois law. The new amendment has protections that apply to all workers, not just those in the public sector. As a result, private sector companies in the state may argue that the new law does not apply to them because the NLRA preempts the subject matter in the IWRA.

Federal preemption in the private employer sector is related to the US Supreme Court’s views on the NLRA, which started in 1959 in a case and has been recognized ever since. Courts apply preemption under the National Labor Relations Act to expand the NRLA’s whole subject matter.

The Amendment Protects Union Security

The new amendment looks to block the state from ever becoming an RTW state, which also prohibits requirements for workers to join unions. Today, there are 28 RTW states, which include Iowa, Wisconsin, and Michigan.

The NLRA allows all states to ban required union membership as a requirement of employment. But the new Illinois law does the opposite because it bans laws that prevent agreements between companies and labor groups that require union membership to work at an employer. So, the language would stop any legislative efforts to pass an RTW law in the state. Of course, the language could be challenged due to preemption of the NLRA, but it is uncertain how such a legal challenge would pan out.

Contact Our Schaumburg Employee Rights Lawyer

There are still questions to be answered about the IWRA, but it seems certain that the new law will expand worker protections for collective bargaining in Illinois. If you have questions about the law, speak to our Schaumburg employee rights lawyer at Law Office of Michael T. Smith & Associates at (847) 466-1099.