(The Center Square) – Parents and teachers from Chicago Public Schools have filed a petition in an effort to block a proposed constitutional amendment they believe contradicts federal law governing labor relations.
The Illinois Right to Collective Bargaining Amendment, also known as Amendment 1, was approved in Senate Joint Constitutional Amendment 11 for the Nov. 8, 2022 ballot in May 2021. If approved by voters, it would give any employee from either private businesses or the government the fundamental right to engage in collective bargaining for various reasons.
The lawsuit was filed by The Liberty Justice Center on behalf of Sara Sachen.
Sachen explained that the teachers union strikes have had an impact on her children.
“My middle two kids, in sixth and third grade, are on Individualized Education Plans, and are still over a year behind due to the school closures,” Sachen said. “They went back two whole weeks, and then they were sent home due to the strike. It is so cruel. The strike just disrupts everything because you’re ripping schedules out from children who are used to a defined structure.”
The lawsuit claims that Amendment 1 will enshrine union powers in the Illinois Constitution, making it impossible for lawmakers to curb union powers and giving union contracts more weight than state law.
Mailee Smith, of the Illinois Policy Institute, said the goal is get the proposed amendment removed from the ballot before it goes to voters.
“This case is seeking to remove the amendment from the ballot because Illinois taxpayers should not be spending money on a ballot measure that is unconstitutional,” Smith said.
Jacob Huebert, president of the Liberty Justice Center, explained why they view the amendment as unconstitutional.
“Amendment 1 violates the U.S. Constitution and must be taken off the ballot,” Huebert said. “Federal law protects and regulates collective bargaining in the private sector. This attempt to create a state-law right to private-sector collective bargaining on top of that violates federal law and the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution.”
Unions and Democratic lawmakers have pushed for the “Workers’ Rights Amendment,” and got the Illinois General Assembly in 2021 to put it on the Nov. 8 general election ballot. State Rep. Marcus Evans, D-Chicago, said last year that with Amendment 1, Illinois has a chance to be a leader in the nation.
“We see many laws that are continuously pushed throughout this country, but today we have an opportunity in the state of Illinois to be leaders by passing this amendment,” he said.
State Sen. Ram Villivalam, D-Chicago, said if approved by voters, the amendment will help union workers who have been earning less.
“The falling rate of unionization has lowered wages, not only because some workers no longer received the higher union wage, but also because there is less pressure on nonunion employers to raise wages,” Villavalam said.
Smith said that if they can block Amendment 1 from the ballot, Illinois citizens would be the winners.
“If the Illinois Policy Institute and the Liberty Justice Center win this case, that would be a win for the people of Illinois,” Smith said. “It would mean that our General Assembly has not put an unconstitutional ballot initiative on the November ballot.”
The lawsuit was filed on April 21, 2022, in the Seventh Judicial Circuit Court in Sangamon County.