Conflicts of interest, serious disagreements and oppositional viewpoints, contradictory philosophies and belief systems, even interpersonal hostilities occur in all areas of life.  One of these arenas is the employer-employee workplace, which for the majority of adult Americans, is the most common location for individuals to acquire an income.  Thus, employment income (wages and salaries) are    the primary means for obtaining food, shelter, clothing and other necessities and choices for workers and their families.

Labor unions have greatly contributed to structuring and maintaining America’s economy and culture.  Beyond negotiating workers’ salaries and job security, they have brought about multiple other benefits through employer contracts and legislation:  the 40 hour work week with paid time off for holidays, vacations, and sick days; as well as time and a half overtime pay; health and safety protocols like protective helmets and radiation detectors; paid job training; paid medical insurance; paid maternity leave; job advancement opportunities; time breaks during work hours; retirement and pension plans; protection from arbitrary dismissal, lockouts, demotions, lay-offs, unwanted and dangerous work assignments and relocations, harassments, discrimination and, in general, unfair employer practices.

The above-listed benefits and an assortment of other benefits have been brought about through the establishment of labor unions paid for with dues of union members.

Workers in Illinois have experienced repeated attempts to weaken organized labor by others who have tried to make it a “right to work” state.  The term “right to work” is a misnomer.  It means that a worker cannot be required to join a union as a condition of employment nor be required to pay a fair share fee to pay the cost of union activities, even though by law unions MUST bargain for all workers and MUST defend all workers if there is a complaint or grievance against the employer.  These “free riders” enjoy union generated worker benefits without paying for them.  Union members not only pay for their own benefits but also pay the benefits that the “free riders” receive.

Research has shown that workers in right to work states make less money, have fewer benefits, have less or no health insurance, and have a less secure retirement future (1).  Obviously, these conditions lead to more people being eligible for public assistance such as welfare, (even if they are working), Medicaid and food stamps.  We, the taxpayers, fund these public assistance programs.

Research also has shown union membership was about 35% nationwide until 1979, but since then union membership noticeably declined but the income gap between the wealthy and the rest of society has widened.  And as union membership declined, the gap increased (2).

It is estimated that the drop in union membership has resulted in an average drop of $52/week ($2,700/year) for  a nonunion working person (3).  Unionized workers in female dominated occupations such as food services and janitorial services make 52.1% more than their nonunion counterparts (4).

A major positive outcome for society as a whole is that members of organized labor are strongly encouraged by union leaders to learn about and participate in issues of public concern.  This is especially true when it comes to public elections. Understandably, unions try to keep their membership informed on issues and candidates’ positions that may have a direct impact on their lives and livelihoods.  The result is that workers belonging to unions are 12% more likely to vote than those not in unions (5).

A referendum will be on the ballot this November to amend the Illinois constitution.  It is meant to prevent Illinois from becoming a right to work state.   The 50th Ward Green Party strongly supports this referendum and urges you to vote “Yes” on this measure.

  1. Economic Policy Institute Fact Sheet: “Unions help reduce disparities and strengthen our democracy”, April 23, 2021.                                                                               
  2. Figure A, p.2.                                                                                 
  3. Figure B, p.3.                                                                                          
  4. P. 6.                                                                                             
  5. P. 8