Op-Ed: Illinois government unions seek more strike power to get more political

The Cook County College Teachers Union is planning a strike for the end of October unless the college’s students get housing and day care services (the teachers also want more money).

They are basically demanding a taxpayer-funded charity, “City Colleges for the Common Good.”

It would subsidize child care, housing costs and expanded “wraparound” support services for students. It sounds noble, but if the union wants to start a charity, then maybe union money should pay for it.

The Chicago Teachers Union used the same tactic before it went on strike in 2019 – exactly three years ago – demanding the Chicago Public Schools compel initiatives and tax measures to bring about more affordable housing. Mayor Lori Lightfoot complained the non-traditional demand was delaying negotiations.

In both cases, we see teachers holding students’ welfare hostage through strikes or strike threats. And the teachers are striking over issues intended to improve student welfare? Sounds like a parent standing there with a belt, saying, “This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you. And it’s for your own good.”

The CTU dropped its housing demands when the city came up with 16% raises for them. A cynic would think the “social welfare” agenda was just a bargaining tactic – a straw man put up to divert time and attention from the real goal of more money.

It’s easy to wonder whether the City Colleges for the Common Good proposal will also wind up in the trash can beneath the negotiating table as soon as the cash comes through.

Illinois government unions have become more political with each decade. It’s gotten to the point of public servants expecting extensive service from the public, such as spending 25% of the state budget on their retirements while the pension debt balloons to $313 billion.

That fealty could grow if voters agree to a proposed change to the Illinois Constitution at the top of the Nov. 8 ballot. Amendment 1, which the unions are calling a “Workers’ Rights Amendment,” would empower government union bosses to negotiate over a much wider range of topics than wages and benefits. More topics mean more costly demands to be satisfied by taxpayers.

Stripped down, the proposal is a tax increase. Illinois Policy Institute experts estimate the cost per Illinois family at $2,149, but it could be much greater because of implications protecting unions. If passed, unions would have the ability to strike over nearly anything and restrict lawmakers from ever limiting those powers, which could produce a lot of unforeseen and expensive complications.

And for anyone doubting if government unions would take advantage of the expanded powers to force taxpayers to advance their social justice campaigns, just look at the past action of the CTU and current push by the CCCTU.

Complicating this vote is that the same lawmakers who put this proposal on the ballot, thanks to their reliance on government union campaign funds, also essentially killed the main communication that explains it to voters. Before Illinois voters decide a constitutional change, there must be a little blue pamphlet mailed to them with the proposal’s language as well as the pro and con arguments.

This time there is no blue pamphlet because lawmakers created a one-time exception to the law and let the Illinois Secretary of State mail out postcards that simply list the website where the pamphlet can be found.

Has anyone bothered to type in that long web address? It’s 49 characters long.

Again, the resident cynic might argue the information is less accessible this year because the less information about the proposal, the better. Polling has shown voters turn against Amendment 1 as soon as they learn how much it empowers government unions and what it could cost.

It also stands in the way of fixing the pension debt and other government financial messes because it gives government unions more power to protect their interests and restricts lawmakers from protecting ours.

No other state has handed government unions this kind of power. Were Illinois to do so, we’d either be the most progressive state in the nation or the most gullible – or worse.

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