Pritzker weighs in on statehouse staffers attempting to unionize

September 08, 2023 08:09 AM

(The Center Square) – A group of Illinois statehouse staffers seeking to unionize to gain better working conditions and pay hasn’t made progress with their boss, House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch.

The staffers have been hoping to meet with Welch, D-Hillside, to discuss terms for unionization but have been unsuccessful up to this point.

“For the last 9 months, we have asked in good faith for Speaker Welch to meet with us. Despite his outspoken pro-labor rhetoric and vocal support for the right of all employees in Illinois to unionize, he is apparently intent on denying this right to his own staff,” the Illinois Legislative Staff Association said in a statement posted to social media. “It should not be controversial in 2023 for a group of workers in a blue state with a strong union tradition to form a union, especially when the right to organize is enshrined in the state constitution.”

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Wednesday addressed the situation when asked at an unrelated event.

“Workers can collectively bargain wherever they are, and as far as I am concerned, and I believe the speaker feels the same, that that goes for every position in the state,” Pritzker said.

The workers have stated that Welch has yet to meet with the staffers to discuss what the workers hope to gain. Pritzker said no one wants to stop the workers, but these things take time.

“I don’t think there is anybody who is hoping to prevent anyone from unionizing,” Pritzker said. “It does take time. There needs to be a point where the organizer gets their workers together to determine what they want.”

Pritzker said he would continue to support the workers’ efforts.

“I don’t know the specifics of what they’re demanding. I support their ability to unionize. That’s why we supported the Worker’s Rights Amendment,” Pritzker said. “Workers that want to get together in the workplace and organize should have the right to do that.”

Amendment 1 was passed by voters last year, codifying collective bargaining in the Illinois Constitution.

Pritzker said of the entire workforce in Illinois public and private sectors, about 14% are unionized.

“It’s a time question and also a question about whether the other people who work in state government for the legislature want to be part of the union,” Pritzker said. “Nobody is preventing anybody from having a union and nobody is saying you have to be unionized.”