Matt Paprocki: Amendment 1 promises dismal future for Illinois' businesses
A proposed constitutional amendment on the Nov. 8 ballot would deliver on its election-season promise in a way no political candidate could -- but not for the better.
Amendment 1, misleadingly dubbed the "Workers' Rights Amendment" by proponents, is a proposed change to the Illinois Constitution that would hand a bleak future to Illinois and its business community regardless of which candidates win in November.
Why? The amendment's provisions would grant government union bosses unprecedented, extreme powers that could interfere with services for the state's most vulnerable populations and heap additional costs on Illinois job creators who fund those critical services.
Amendment 1 would allow government unions to bargain and strike over topics related to "economic welfare," which could include political subjects such as affordable housing and restorative justice. With more subjects to bargain over, government union bosses would have more opportunities to rally their members to strike and detract from their time serving the public, including underserved and at-risk Illinoisans who need government services the most.
Private-sector businesses and workers would not benefit from the so-called "Workers' Rights Amendment" whatsoever because a state mandate cannot tread on issues federal law covers, but those private workers and businesses would be forced to pay higher taxes to fund whatever costly new provisions are added to the government unions' contracts.
Exactly three years ago, Illinoisans saw an example of Amendment 1's potential when the Chicago Teachers Union went on strike over an array of demands, including affordable housing assistance. The strike kept Chicago Public Schools students out of the classroom for 11 days. When the picket signs lowered, business owners and other taxpayers were stuck paying an estimated $1.5 billion for the resulting five-year contract.
The CTU strike is far from the only one that has held up basic government operations, leaving taxpayers to fend for themselves. Illinois' teachers unions have gone on strike 48 times in the past decade, according to Illinois Policy Institute research. The cost of the halted services, the strikes themselves and the final contracts always fall on the state's job creators and other Illinoisans.
Imagine this effect amplified under Amendment 1's passage, when government unions could abandon their responsibilities to strike over nearly anything they want for as long as they want. The elderly in state-run nursing homes would be abandoned.
Public-school children in disadvantaged households would have nowhere else to go. Domestic violence victims would show up to government-funded shelters only to be rebuffed. Mental health services would be denied to those in crisis. Both the human and financial costs would be massive.
Business owners would likely see Amendment 1's results manifest as increased commercial property taxes, which fund government unions at the local level. An Illinois Policy Institute model projects if the current rate continues, businesses will pay an additional $1.8 billion in commercial property taxes by 2026. Amendment 1 would likely increase that given the unpredictability of the government unions' new demands and the potential increase in strikes.
Illinois business owners want to invest in a stable state, not one in which the most vulnerable cannot receive the services they need or that takes advantage of the taxpayers who fund those services. Amendment 1's near-permanent enshrinement of government union power in the state constitution would make that Illinois a reality.
We deserve better than the dismal future in Amendment 1's election-year promise. Let's make another promise to vote "no" on Amendment 1.
• Matt Paprocki is president of the Illinois Policy Institute, a nonpartisan research organization.