Posted on: October 20, 2022 Posted by: Glacier Staff Comments: 0

Photo by Jake May

By The Editorial Board

These days, a trip to the grocery store requires a major investment. A dozen eggs and a carton of orange juice costs almost double what it used to, and just paying for the gas needed to make that trip can be a hardship for many people who are living precariously.

Meanwhile, billionaires laugh while running to the bank with record profits and spend their chump change on anti-union efforts.

The deterioration of labor laws since the passage of the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 has allowed productivity to reach an all time high, while real wages have stagnated since 1979. With rising inflation, increases in wages mean almost nothing.

And by depriving wage increases to their workers, corporate executives in the Fortune 500 have pocketed a record $37.8 trillion in 2022 alone. The greed has gone on for too long. It’s time to reemphasize the importance of unions as a way to protect a worker’s right to bargaining power with their employers.

That’s why we must go to the polls on Nov. 8 and vote in favor of Amendment 1, also known as The Right to Collective Bargaining Measure. The amendment will ensure workers “the fundamental right to organize and to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing for the purpose of negotiating wages, hours, and working conditions, and to protect their economic welfare and safety at work.”

It will also provide protection from any law that interferes with “the right of employees to organize and bargain collectively.” This would mean Illinois would have the first state constitution to recognize the right to unionize within its Bill of Rights.

A recent Gallup poll noted that the approval for unions nationwide hit its highest point since 1965. Now more than ever, workers are realizing the potential of unions to protect pay and uphold safety. Starbucks employees alone have forged a grassroots labor movement.

As NPR reports, “So far, more than 300 Starbucks stores in close to three dozen states have had union elections — a stunning number, given not a single company-owned store had a union at this time last year. Even more remarkable is that 80% of them, or around 245 stores, have gone in favor of forming a union.”

Though the federal government protects the right to organize, it is left to the states to allocate how much power unions have in their respective borders. With this increase in approval (and action) has come resistance by the business class to undermine the new efforts in solidarity.

Recent polls suggest that the popularity of unions is increasing

The most infamous of these elites is Kenneth Griffin, known as the “richest man in Illinois.” Some may remember Griffin as the main benefactor of the “Coalition To Stop The Proposed Tax Hike Amendment,” which was a group that attempted to halt the Fair Tax Amendment of 2020.

The group had $46.75 million to play with, thanks in large part to Griffin’s donations. Once the money flowed, so did the misinformation campaigns, such as the ones that claimed the tax amendment would have given the state a “blank check” for future tax hikes.

Without realizing they were hurting themselves, working class people went to the polls to vote against an amendment that would have cut taxes for earners making under $100,000.

Not only does Griffin donate on behalf of his class, but so do fellow billionaire families like the Kochs and Mercers, who make up a huge percentage of funding for the Illinois Policy Institute, an “independent think-tank” that acts more as a vehicle for pro-corporate, anti-union rhetoric than an objective institution. The institute will resort to misinformation if necessary to fight the labor movement.

Now we see the same tactics being used to get people to vote against their own interests when it comes to Amendment 1.

The institute warns passing the amendment would lead to an increase of approximately $2,100 in property taxes “for the typical American family.” Frank Manzo from the Illinois Economic Policy has strong reservations about that estimate. He previously stated in an interview with Illinois Newsroom the implausibility of IPI’s projection, and argued that the passing of the amendment would actually “prevent the property tax base from shrinking.” Not to mention the amendment itself makes no reference to taxes whatsoever.

“The amendment is really intended to prevent politicians from enacting laws that interfere with the private negotiations of businesses and their workers,” Manzo stated. “And by doing so the amendment would protect middle class wages and benefits, and promote workplace safety.”

The laws he refers to are “right-to-work” laws, active in 27 states, which undermine unions by prohibiting collecting payment from workers to claim union benefits. Unions need these dues for times when collective bargaining and striking are necessary, to bring the company to the negotiation table.

(Photo by Jason Redmond/Getty Images)
Starbucks employees protest at a local shop.

The proliferation of pro-union sentiment and the reaction against it is hard to ignore. Headlines concerning companies like Starbucks, Apple, and Amazon shine a unflattering light on the issue of anti-union tactics.

New-hire procedures often call for mandatory anti-union meetings in the service industry, as such was the case when the National Labor Relations Board found Amazon in violation of labor laws.

This has been only one of many instances in which Amazon has intimidated workers in their facilities, most notably the ones where the Amazon Labor Union has made inroads.

A vote for Amendment 1 would protect Illinois workers in these precarious financial times from being exploited by greed. Americans should have not only a federal institution like the National Labor Relations Board to protect workers’ rights, but a state provision that secures that right.

Don’t be fooled by misinformation from billionaires who want to convince you to act against your own best interests. Vote in favor of Amendment 1 on Nov. 8.

The Glacier Editorial Board consists of Rosie Finnegan, opinion editor, Nick Stulga, editor-in-chief, and the section editors of the publication. Editorials represent the official position of The Glacier.