Illinois Prisons Inmate Attacks

American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch

Did you vote for Stacy Davis Gates? How about Roberta Lynch? Are you comfortable with them deciding how much you pay in taxes?

Unlikely, because you probably do not even know who they are. Gates is president of the 20,000-member Chicago Teachers Union. Lynch is executive director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31, which claims 90,000 active and retired members in Illinois.

Would you be happy about anyone you didn’t vote for deciding to tax you?

Of course not. Americans fought a war to stop England from taxing us without representation. We built up a public education system so we’d have an informed electorate capable of deciding who best represented our interests and would balance the needs of our people against the harms of taking their hard-earned cash.

But you didn’t elect Gates or Lynch, unless you are part of the minority of Illinois government workers in their unions. Yet if you fall for their pitch that the first question on your Nov. 8 ballot is about “workers’ rights,” and don’t educate yourself on the tax implications of the proposed Amendment 1, you will have essentially decided you are good with letting these government union bosses decide your taxes.

An explanation is in order.

Amendment 1 is being sold as a benefit to all Illinois workers – the ads show nurses and construction workers – but that just isn’t true. Federal law covers union workers in the private sector, and state law cannot usurp federal powers. When state lawmakers first voted to put this on the ballot, one of the sponsors even said so.

So that means at least 93% of the working adults in Illinois won’t see any benefit. But they will see the bill.

Amendment 1’s main threat is it greatly expands the topics over which government unions can negotiate. It does so with vague terms such as “economic welfare” and “safety at work.” We’ve gotten a glimpse of what those could mean from the militant Chicago Teachers Union, which tried to negotiate “economic welfare” by demanding housing subsidies when it went on strike for 11 days three years ago. It’s also advocated defunding the police and banks.

It ultimately gave up the housing demand, but it was part of CTU’s strategy to get 16% in raises and a contract that cost Chicago taxpayers $1.5 billion. Broadening the topics of negotiations gives government unions an unfair advantage, which will lead to higher costs. That means tax increases, including higher local property taxes and more state taxes like those passed in 2019, which gobbled an extra $5.24 billion.

The Chicago Tribune, The Wall Street Journal and three other Illinois news outlets independently evaluated Amendment 1 and came out against it. Besides taxes, they worried future generations would be stuck with its rigid dictates. They feared for a democracy in which state lawmakers cannot make state laws about those who work for the state. They warned government union bosses would be able to rewrite the rules because Illinois allows government union contracts to trump state law.

What if the government union dislikes the state law calling for background checks before a state worker can be around children? Just write into the contract that background checks are not required. An Illinois Department of Children and Family Services worker is currently charged with child pornography – something a state employer should know if he’s convicted. Should a union contract be able to suppress that information?

Don’t want taxpayers to know just how lucrative the new contract will be? Just write into the contract that state open records laws do not apply. Prison barbers making $115,000 and Chicago bus drivers making $174,000 would be secrets – until your tax bill comes.

In all, at least 350 state laws could likely be voided by the language in Amendment 1. Union bosses would gain power as the only special interest protected by the Illinois Constitution. The politicians we elect to represent our interests would be restricted and weakened by it. The proposal is so wide and reckless that not a single state has embraced these policies, much less cast them in stone in their state constitutions.

Plus, the other threat to taxpayers is Amendment 1 would further weaken Illinois’ ability to fix its nation-leading public pension debt. Government unions traded campaign cash for clout that gave them public pensions Illinoisans cannot afford: over 25% of the state budget goes to pensions yet the taxpayer debt to those pensions is now estimated at $313 billion. That’s $64,000 every household in Illinois will eventually be asked to pay. Empower those government unions more, and weaken state lawmakers’ abilities to rein them in, and you can forget about reforming the pensions that have led Illinois to cut a range of core services by 14% while pension spending has grown 533% since 2000.

More taxation, less representation: You never elected Gates or Lynch. You should be afraid of other voters putting them in power for you.

Brad Weisenstein is the managing editor of the Illinois Policy Institute, a non-partisan think tank pursuing a freer Illinois.