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The New Illinois Workers' Rights Amendment

June 14, 2023

On election day in November 2022, Illinois voters approved a state constitutional amendment called the Illinois Workers’ Rights Amendment (IWRA) that guarantees all employees organizing and collective bargaining rights. The new amendment is complex, and many people wonder about its impact. If you have questions about the IWRA or related workers’ rights, our Illinois workers’ rights attorney at Law Office of Michael T. Smith & Associates can answer them.

What Is The IWRA?

The Illinois Workers’ Rights Amendment inserts language into the state constitution that affirms all workers’ rights to ‘organize and to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing to negotiate wages, hours, and working conditions, and to protect their economic welfare and safety at work.’ The amendment also states that local governments cannot pass laws interfering with or diminishing workers' rights to bargain collectively and organize. This legislation is referred to as a blocking regulation, which means it shields workers from other laws that could be passed.

The Economic Policy Institute states that the new amendment creates rules in Illinois that fight against attacks on workers’ rights to organize. These threats include attempts to erode public-sector employees’ collective bargaining rights. Another is the attempt to reduce private employees’ collective bargaining rights with right-to-work laws.

The IWRA May Overlap Somewhat With The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA)

The NLRA and other federal laws also safeguard the bargaining rights of most private-sector employees. However, states still have a crucial role in developing worker power. This is because there are carveouts in the NLRA that leave millions of employees without the right to organize and collectively bargain. In addition, while the NLRA covers many workers, Congress has still let states limit collective bargaining rights with right-to-work laws.

For instance, the NLRA does not include domestic, public sector, and agriculture workers in its coverage. It also does not mention independent contractors and supervisors, so the states must establish policy on collective bargaining rights for these uncovered workers.

Labor experts say the IWRA in Illinois is crucial because it confirms the collective bargaining rights of all workers no matter where and how they work in the state. Also, it limits right-to-work laws that restrict collective bargaining rights.

Union Security Is Protected

The new amendment appears to prevent Illinois from ever becoming a right-to-work state, which prevents people from being required to be in a union. There are 28 right-to-work states now, including states near Illinois, such as Iowa, Indiana, and Michigan.

Interestingly, the NLRA allows the states to ban compulsory union membership as a requirement of employment, but the Illinois amendment does the opposite by banning laws that do not allow agreements between unions and employers that require union membership as part of employment.

Contact Our Illinois Workers’ Rights Attorney Today

The IWRA only passed a few months ago, and many aspects of the law still need to be clarified. However, both Illinois workers and employers should be aware of the amendment’s potential to enhance union rights. If you have questions about the IWRA, speak to our Illinois workers’ rights attorney at Law Office of Michael T. Smith & Associates.