To the Editor:

I write to you not as a candidate for Fifth Ward alderman (which I am) but as a concerned citizen. I was pleased to learn some time ago that an amendment had successfully made its way to our November ballot that will, if passed, cement into our state’s constitution certain critical protections for workers who would organize to improve their circumstances. My satisfaction turned to alarm last week when I saw the results of a recent poll, which reports that 54 percent of Illinois residents are in favor of the Workers’ Rights Amendment. This may sound like a slim advantage, but a quirk in the way Illinois law works means this is likely to be about six points less than what is needed for passage.

In order to pass, constitutional amendments in Illinois must either garner three-fifths of the vote (60 percent) or a majority of the votes cast. That means if everyone voted on the amendment, a majority would be sufficient. In general, this is unlikely for any ballot measure, and in this case, it seems very unlikely. The poll referenced above—conducted by WCIA, The Hill, and Emerson College—also revealed that 16 percent are undecided and 30 percent are opposed, meaning that a fair percentage of people are likely to simply skip the question. The most reasonable tactical assumption in this case is to assume that three-fifths of voters are needed for passage.

Broadly described, the amendment seeks to create a firewall to protect our workplaces in Illinois from the anti-union movement known by the Orwellian moniker “right to work.” This movement seeks to undermine the fundamental right of human beings to join together to protect and advance our shared interests. The Workers Rights Amendment reaffirms that right. More specifically, it enshrines the all-important right to join together and negotiate pay raises and adds protections for whistleblowers. Other elements include prioritizing training for first responders and a measure that stops CEOs from raising their own pay while cutting the wages of workers. For my money, though, the key is that right to come together and negotiate pay, along with protections for workers who speak out against dangers in the workplace.

From the old United Packinghouse Workers of America union hall on 49th and Wabash to Karen Lewis’ Hyde Park home, the South Side has been a critical part of the workers’ unions story for generations. Come out and make history again next Tuesday—and be sure to ask your friends about the amendment. That same poll reports that 13 percent of Democrats are undecided and 4 percent are opposed, while 19 percent of independents are undecided and 42 percent are opposed. Don’t assume: Make sure your friends and family vote YES for the Workers’ Rights Amendment. To learn more, visit workersrights.com.

Gabriel Piemonte

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