How Will Illinois Workers’ Rights Act Impact Businesses?

Illinois has always been a strong union state, and to keep that tradition strong, the labor movement successfully convinced state voters to add an amendment to the state constitution that guarantees that employees have the right to bargain and organize collectively.

On November 8, 2022, voters in Illinois approved the Illinois Workers’ Rights Act, also known as the Illinois Workers’ Rights Amendment (IWRA), which changed the state constitution to ensure that workers have collective bargaining rights. Learn more about this Act and how it may affect businesses, then contact our business law attorney in Schaumburg at North Suburban Legal Services if you have questions.

What Is The Illinois Workers’ Rights Act?

Last election day, Illinois voters approved the Illinois Workers’ Rights Amendment that guarantees all workers in the state organizing and collective bargaining rights. In addition, the amendment added language to the Illinois Constitution that affirms that workers have the right to organize and bargain collectively using representatives they choose, to negotiate worker pay, working conditions, and hours, and protect their safety and economic welfare. These changes are intended to provide additional worker security and protection.

The new clause also states that no law can be passed in Illinois at the local level that interferes with or reduces the rights of workers to organize and bargain collectively. Legal experts say that the amendment could majorly impact bargaining rights in the public and private sectors. However, some believe the act could be preempted by the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).

How The Illinois Workers’ Rights Act Could Affect Employers

The act will likely expand the collective bargaining rights of many employees. However, the language in the act raises many questions about who will be allowed to bargain with Illinois businesses, when bargaining is allowed, and what the scope is of that activity. Many legal experts say that the IWRA is a novel take on collective bargaining rights and something for businesses and their attorneys to watch, as the new protections under the act could overlap with other state and federal laws.

For instance, Illinois labor laws and the NRLA protect workers’ rights to organize and collectively bargain regarding hours, wages, working conditions, etc. But the act adds these subjects to the worker’s right to bargain to safeguard their safety and economic welfare. The state legislature did not define what ‘economic welfare’ means. However, some believe it describes a concept beyond conventional NRLA terminology and employment conditions.

Many in the legal and business communities expect litigation over the meaning and scope of the IWRA because ‘safety at work’ and ‘economic welfare’ are not defined. Also, the amendment would seem to cover types of workers that do not currently have NLRA protections, such as managers and independent contractors. There also are many questions about whether the NRLA preempts the act partially or entirely. Some believe the amendment only applies to public-sector workers because the NRLA already covers private-sector workers.

Some community members in the Chicago area believe that the act will drive up local property taxes because it allows public employee unions to negotiate on more issues surrounding ‘economic welfare.’ If property taxes go up, that could have a negative impact on businesses in the state. Also, the amendment preempts right-to-work laws that could have adverse outcomes.

The IWRA could prevent lawmakers and the people from ever reforming labor laws, some believe. Thus, the argument goes, if legislators decide to limit the scope of ‘economic welfare,’ they will not be allowed to better define what it means because the amendment prohibits it.

Many business attorneys expect the amendment will receive many court challenges. However, it is recommended that Illinois businesses take active steps with their business attorneys to comply with all requirements regarding collective bargaining.

Common Questions About The Illinois Workers’ Rights Amendment

Many questions remain about the IWRA and how it will affect businesses. However, there have been many answers provided about the law online, including the following:

Will The IWRA Raise Taxes?

Some argue that the passage of the amendment will lead to tax increases. However, the SEIU argues that it will not increase property taxes. Instead, the organization argues that the amendment protects workers’ rights to bargain for better benefits and pay, which would put more money in the pockets of families.

Why Is The IWRA Needed When Illinois Already Has Robust Labor Laws?

Illinois has a strong tradition as a pro-worker state, and many believe the IWRA will keep it that way. The amendment was designed to guarantee worker rights and protect people from laws that negatively affect workers. The law also was designed to protect workers from restrictions on worker rights at the federal level.

How Will The IWRA Affect Right-To-Work Laws In The State?

Many workplaces in the state are already pro-union, which means workers must belong to the union to be employed there. However, right-to-work laws make it illegal for a union or employer to sign an agreement that makes paying union dues a condition of employment.

The IWRA would likely block future right-to-work laws in the state. It also rejects the home rule exemption that allows a county or municipality to pass unblocking legislation. However, right-to-work laws are often looked on favorably by businesses so it remains to be seen what could happen if local right-to-work efforts are attempted.

How Much Will The Labor Landscape Change In Illinois Because Of The IWRA?

The act recognizes workers’ fundamental right to collectively bargain and organize through their chosen representatives to negotiate conditions, hours, and wages. However, legal experts note that this still does not significantly change the labor landscape in the state.

The language in the IWRA mirrors what is already in the NLRA under Section 7. This section gives employees the right to organize, join labor unions, and bargain collectively.

Contact Our Business Law Attorney In Schaumburg Now

There are still many questions about this recently passed act, but public and private sector companies should know about the potential of union rights being expanded soon. If you have questions about how the Illinois Workers, Rights Act could affect you, contact our business law attorney in Schaumburg at North Suburban Legal Services today at (312) 909-6089.




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