Union rights amendment support drops below 60%, but it could still pass
A ballot measure intended to codify Illinois workers' right to unionize appears headed toward victory.
Unofficial results show enough voters supporting the proposal to amend the state's constitution to codify collective bargaining rights, with 59.6% so far in favor with 55% of the vote counted.
Amending the state's constitution isn't an easy task. Constitutional amendments have two paths to passage in Illinois. If the measure receives 60 percent of the vote from those voting on the question, it passes. But if it fails to reach the 60 percent threshold on the question but still musters "yes" votes from more than half of those voting in the election, it would still pass.
The complicated formula could keep the final results from being immediately determined.
This was the first time such language had been attempted to be added to the Illinois constitution.
Dubbed the "workers' rights amendment" because it also would prevent any future law that "interferes with, negates, or diminishes the right of employees to organize and bargain collectively," detractors saw the question as an overt attempt to draw union workers, largely seen as Democratic Party loyalists, to the ballot boxes.
Supporters say it will protect workers, ensure fair wages and benefits, and prevent state government from eroding union rights. Critics warn that the measure would give more power to public sector unions and result in higher property taxes.
Critics, including officials at the Illinois Policy Institute, also argued the amendment was unnecessary.
"The fact Illinois already provides some of the most robust government union protections -- and is the only state in the region that doesn't prohibit all or most government workers from going on strike -- it's clear Illinois already has the most far-reaching labor laws in the U.S.," institute officials wrote in a report earlier this week.
The proposal was endorsed by most, if not all, statewide labor union groups.
"It's critically important at a time when we don't know what's going to happen tomorrow -- and we've seen a lot of unpredictability and rights under attack, both federally and here in Illinois -- to make sure that these rights stay in a lockbox and that they're safe for workers for generations to come," said Joe Bowen, communications director for a Vote Yes for Workers Rights, the only organized political committee campaigning on the issue, during a September discussion about the amendment with reporters.
Critics also allege the language of the amendment would allow collective bargaining agreements to forgo things like background checks for employees, something proponents said was false.
If approved, Illinois would join Hawaii, Missouri and New York as the fourth state to add collective bargaining protections to the state's constitution.
Capitol News Illinois contributed to this report.