Public Unions

Will Illinois Give Government Worker Unions a Constitutional Right To Overrule Laws They Don't Like?

Taking the "public" out of public service


Illinois voters next year will consider a constitutional amendment being presented as a guarantee of the right to unionize. But the proposal takes matters much further that that: It would allow collective bargaining agreements to supersede state laws, setting a dangerous precedent.

In May, Illinois lawmakers approved Senate Joint Resolution Constitutional Amendment 11. In order to take effect, voters will also have to approve a ballot referendum on it in November 2022. The goal, as stated by the measure's sponsor, state Rep. Mark Evans (D–Chicago), is to "stand up for workers' rights" by forbidding Illinois from becoming a right-to-work state. The amendment would prohibit Illinois lawmakers from passing legislation restricting public and private employee bargaining, and that includes agreements that could mandate union membership as a condition of employment.

This part of the amendment would put Illinois at odds with many neighboring states, where right-to-work laws forbid arrangements in which a person must join a union to hold a job. But Constitutional Amendment 11 goes much further than that: It bars any law that "interferes with, negates, or diminishes the right of employees to organize and bargain collectively over their wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment and workplace safety."

This seemingly innocuous collection of conditions will have some serious repercussions when it comes to reining in misconduct by unionized public sector employees. Any law that regulates the behavior of Illinois police officers, schoolteachers, or trash collectors could be upended by a union contract.

Disciplinary procedures for public sector employees are already heavily manipulated via collective bargaining agreements, which is why it's so hard to get rid of bad teachers and cops. Still, a law could flat out order the termination or forbid the hiring of public employees who engage in certain behaviors. Yet under this amendment, that law would be subject to veto by collective bargaining. Background checks? Officer certification and decertification? Bans on police chokeholds? All could be subjected to review on the basis of it being a "condition of employment."

As things stand now in Illinois, the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act already gives collective bargaining agreements with public sector units the power to overrule other state laws. But that is a statutory regulation that could be altered by lawmakers should they choose to do so. And sometimes judges determine that a "public policy exception" supersedes union collective-bargaining agreements.

Evans' proposal would put this wording into the state's Constitution. It would essentially become a recognized right for public employee unions to overrule state laws, making it even stronger than existing law and much harder to adjust.

The broadness of this amendment isn't getting much attention yet. But Joe Tabor, an analyst at the Illinois Policy Institute, is already putting out warnings:

This amendment would put union contracts above laws passed by the democratically elected representatives of the people of Illinois and could prevent limits on the subjects of collective bargaining for public employees. For example, the General Assembly could pass a law mandating a certain level of background check for school bus drivers, or disciplinary procedures for teacher misconduct. Given that unions could challenge such laws as violating workers' constitutional right to bargain collectively over such terms and conditions of employment, the amendment could potentially prevent such statutes from taking effect. It could also undo any measures that would rein in public school teachers' right to strike.

Consider the fights we're having right now over the guidelines to return to normal public schooling amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Under this law, whatever the voters or their elected representatives might think is the right approach would be less important than whatever the unions might demand in order for teachers to return to in-person work. Constitutional Amendment 11 takes the public out of the ostensibly democratic process of governing how Illinois government employees behave.

Maybe that's why the Chicago Teachers Union is so intent on attacking school choice. Why would parents send their kids to a school system knowing that they have no power, under the state's own constitution, to hold educators responsible for their behavior or for quality of service? No wonder enrollment is plummeting.

NEXT: Cops Threaten Illegal Kickball Players With Child Abuse Charges

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  1. I don’t know why anyone lives in that state. Seriously. Move.

    1. An even better idea: have Californians move Illinois. There might still be some hope for CA if most of the residents leave.

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    2. Well, it does have good pizza.

      1. Try saying that on the Glibs…

        1. It’s cute that you talk to your own socks.

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      2. ya after you tear away all the stupid dough

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          Don’t let a few bad experiences turn you away from Chicago-style.

          1. Agreed. I went to seminary in Oak Brook and had a lot of mediocre Chicago style pizzas but some truly good ones.

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    4. The worst thing about living in IL is knowing that OUR state is one of the eleven states who are responsible for propping up those 39 mooching states, mostly repukelicon controlled, who rely on federal socialism for their existence.

      This amendment is stupid and will never pass as it is written.

  2. As a State that actually lost population over the past decade, driving businesses out of State makes total sense. That appears to be the goal of the bureaucrats. Eventually there will be no businesses to support the government spending and benefits to the State employees.

    When John Deere leaves Rock Island, turn out the lights on your way out of the State.

    1. Rock Island lost International Harvestor 35 years ago. Case (Combines) left for Nebraska 15 years ago. Deere has Harvester in Moline, World Headquarters also in Moline, the Part Distribution Center in Milan, and Planter/cylinders in Moline. Deere is not in Rock Island. Deere actually has about an equal amount across the river in Iowa.

      When Cat leaves Peoria…. Lights will be out ( No more Diesel Gensets)

      Could never figure out why Boeing moved to Chicago….

      1. It’s not just that longtime Illinois companies are leaving, its also that they aren’t expanding here. State Farm isn’t expanding its offices in Bloomington, instead they’re going in north of Dallas. Cat may still have locations in Peoria and Pontiac, but they’ve not expanded those locations.

        There are subtler problems too, such as worker’s compensation rules. Office Depot took their headquarters out of Naperville over the workers compensation costs. When it comes to political capital, it would cost nothing to remedy this problem. Nobody cares about workers compensation except the Trial Lawyers Association of Illinois. You don’t have to guess which party all of their donation money goes to. Hence, nothing gets done.

        The starkest contrast is when you look at the economy and activities of places like Metropolis vs. Paducah, or Rock Island and Moline vs. Bettendorf and Davenport. Heck there aren’t any signs if you’re on the residential roads in Beloit, but you know when you’ve crossed the state line.

  3. If the people of Illinois are dumb enough to vote for this, I’ll feel really sorry for them.

    “Illinois piled nearly $4 billion onto its unfunded pension liabilities in fiscal 2020 as statutorily based payments fell well short of actuarial requirements and amid lackluster investment returns dampened by the COVID-19 pandemic.

    The unfunded liabilities rose $3.8 billion, or 2.8%, to a new peak of $141 billion in fiscal 2020 from $137.2 billion in 2019. The system of five funds that cover teachers outside Chicago, state employees, public university professionals, general assembly members and judges is collectively 40.4% funded.

    —-The Bond Buyer

    If Illinois doesn’t have the worst funded state pension system in the country, they’re among the worst. It looks like the public employees that run that state are preparing for the worst anyway. At some point, even Greece had to face reality, and when reality sets in, they want to make it as hard as possible for the government to get out of their unfunded pension liabilities.

    1. P.S. Moody’s says Illinois’ pension debt is actually $317 billion.

      “Illinois’ pension debt reached an all-time high of $317 billion as of June 30, 2020, according to credit rating agency Moody’s Investors Service – more than double the state’s official estimate.”

      It’s time to cut spending.

      1. I do not think what they are doing is quite legal. It seems to me it would run afoul of non-delegation. I do not think the Legislature can delegate law-making to another entity.

        IL is a total mess.

        1. This is a proposed amendment to the Illinois State Constitution, so it would override whatever delegation rule exists under that State constitution.

          1. That works as long as it’s something the left likes. If it’s something the right likes, like defining marriage as between a man and a woman, then constitutional amendments can be unconstitutional.

            1. Y’all, I think that if this passes, Illinois will quickly become literally a 1-party state! Seriously! Think it through! Both Illinois and labor unions (especially Government Almighty worker’s unions) lean heavily “Team D”. What about the workers in Illinois who count the votes, or control the machines that count the votes? The labor union can simply declare that workers who fudge-pack the votes, can NOT be punished! So then, from now till infinity (or a revolution by bullets, since revolution by ballots is now blocked), Illinois will forever remain “Team D”!

              Non-“Team D” votes simply will no longer count!

              But ya know what? “Team R”, with its current push for replacing “He who gets the most votes, wins” with “He who whines and cries, and makes up lies (about election fraud), the best, wins”… Will have themselves at least partly to blame, by legitimizing this tactic for promoting 1-party dictatorshit!

      2. I wonder what the pension debt would look like if IL was getting handouts like FL & TX?

  4. But the proposal takes matters much further that that: It would allow collective bargaining agreements to supersede state laws, setting a dangerous precedent.

    Sort of like… I dunno, some state actor killing someone and turning that issue into an employee/employer dispute? Something like that?

  5. Will Illinois fuck something up? Yes indeed.

  6. So what? Religious people can opt their businesses out of laws so why not unions. If you are going to allow groups your like to have special privileges then your run the risk of having groups your don’t like get privileges.

    1. Absolutely correct! If some nuns aren’t forced to buy contraceptives, than some police officer gets to keep his job after shooting 3 unarmed men and a dozen dogs.

      1. Cops kill about 1000 people per year in the US. The religious groups demanded and sometimes got exemptions from covid measures. One could convincingly argue that those exemptions lead to more then 1000 deaths.

        1. Planned parenthood kills 300k people a year yet you believe they should get more tax funds.

          1. MG doesn’t think they’re people, so that doesn’t count. Same with Afghanistan.

            Easier to support Joe when you’re racist.

  7. Just use the proven California method:
    the state public employee unions buy the elected politicians and get them to pass the laws the unions want.

    1. California-style corruption is inferior to Chicago-style corruption.

      Funny, when I look at an abridged history of political machines, I see Cook County, but I don’t see Los Angeles, California, Santa Barbara, Alameda…

  8. Public sector workers shouldn’t be allowed to unionize anyway. Even FDR recognized that.

    1. It’s a union negotiating with an employer who can’t actually go out of business. These are the LAST workers who should have a union.

      1. It’s also a union defending employees against an employer that should be prevented by it’s own Constitution from taking any action that requires a union. Every volunteer soldier can potentially take any given grievance up with the chain of command, civilian courts, or, courts martial.

    2. Good thing we got that asshole conservative out and put in union loving Biden huh?

      1. And trains, man.

  9. It sounds like this would actually forbid charter schools and home schooling altogether. If not immediately, it would after the next union teacher contract.

  10. It would allow collective bargaining agreements to supersede state laws, setting a dangerous precedent.

    That precedent was set already via “protestor agreements” being allowed to supersede state laws.

  11. I wonder about health and safety regulations. They are definitely conditions of employment. Could a union and employer agree that an employee will not be required to wear a safety harness, under conditions that a statute or regulation requires it? Or could a union negotiate a wage below the Illinois minimum wage?

  12. “interferes with, negates, or diminishes the right of employees to organize and bargain collectively over their wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment and workplace safety.”

    Just imagine your local police chief reading off this line to explain why so and so (and their dog, obv) was shot by such and such police officer with no provocation or warning and no, nothing is going to be done about it.

  13. Illinois is playing shenanigans again, are they?

  14. Wow, some Ill-and-annoy gov’t workers are really afraid that qualified immunity is going to go away at some point in time and are trying to enshrine it in the state constitution. Sounds about right for unionist protectionism.

  15. The Janus decision effectively made the whole fucking county “right to work”, at least for public sector unions. Perhaps the Illinois state legislature missed the ruling.

  16. I wonder if a citizens union could then pass its own local laws and contract its own policing and taxation department… Then pass a union policy of not sharing with the state. Might as well roll with it.

  17. Wait a minute. Saying that police unions must be allowed to bargain for the use of chokeholds by does not mean municipal employers have to agree to let officers use chokeholds. Chokeholds and and all the other examples in the piece are hyperbolic.

    1. ^^ please ignore the unnecessary “by”

  18. So they want to make it impossible to make the Chicago cops get the vaccine? Weird timing.

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