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The Internationalist
  November 2022

Vote Yes on Illinois
“Workers’ Rights Amendment”!

Amendment 1 on the Illinois state ballot on November 8 would amend the Illinois state constitution, banning any law that “interferes with, negates, or diminishes the right of employees to organize and bargain collectively.” The measure is backed by the state AFL-CIO and individual unions, as well as Democratic politicians, including Governor J.B. Pritzker (member of the fabulously wealthy family that owns the Hyatt hotel chain), posing as “friends of labor.” It is opposed by the state Chamber of Commerce, the Association of Manufacturers, as well as the Illinois Association of School Boards (which has insistently sought to restrict teachers’ right to bargain and to strike) and the state Republican Party.

This measure amending the state’s Bill of Rights is meant to prevent the enactment of any “right to work” law that bans unions from requiring fees to be collected from non-union members covered by collective bargaining agreements. Long promoted by the racist, labor-hating rulers of the states of the former Confederacy, “right to work” laws have spread in the last decade to Midwest states where the labor movement has been weakened through union-busting and significant deindustrialization: Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, West Virginia.

The amendment also states that workers have a “fundamental right to organize and bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing for the purpose of negotiating wages, hours, and working conditions, and to protect their economic welfare and safety at work.” Thus, anti-labor laws such as Act 10 in Wisconsin, enacted in 2011, which severely restricted the rights of public sector workers, including by limiting bargaining only to wages and requiring annual recertification of unions, would be presumed unconstitutional. Unions in Wisconsin have been pummeled by that law.

Under capitalism, rights (including constitutional rights) are conditioned by the class struggle, and the only real guarantee of labor rights is the exercise of workers’ social power through strikes and other forms of workers’ mobilization. In 2011, Wisconsin’s Act 10, pushed by Republican governor Scott Walker, was met with massive, militant opposition by workers, but the labor bureaucrats recoiled from calling a general strike that could have defeated the law, instead pushing to recall Republican legislators (i.e., vote for Democrats).

Meanwhile in Illinois, that same year the Democrat-controlled state legislature overwhelmingly passed a law (SB7) seeking to make teachers strikes nearly impossible, requiring among other restrictions that 75% of the entire union membership vote to walk out. Outrageously, this anti-labor law was supported by Chicago Teachers Union then-president, the late Karen Lewis.

Militant class struggle is crucial when it comes to gaining and holding onto essential rights for the workers and oppressed. At the same time, class-conscious workers should support measures which simply provide some degree of legal protections, however partial or minimal, against union-busting. The straightforwardly worded Amendment 1 is clearly supportable.

While fighting against the sellout bureaucracy for a class-struggle program in the unions, opposing the capitalist Democratic Party and calling for a workers party to fight for a workers government, we strongly urge all defenders of labor rights in Illinois to vote yes on Amendment 1! ■