Illinois House Speaker Pushes Bill to Allow State Unionization

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Illinois House Speaker Pushes Bill to Allow State Unionization

Illinois Democratic lawmakers have long supported unions, but their employees in Springfield have never been allowed to form a union because current law prohibits it. That would change if Welch’s legislation passes the Democratic-led Senate and is signed by Gov. JB Pritzker, who like Welch is a Democrat.

Welch has drawn criticism in recent weeks from some legislative staffers who said he was unwilling to sit down with them to talk about unionizing.

The speaker countered that his chief of staff and legal counsel were at the table and that he had been talking for months with other House speakers across the country about what they were doing.

Few other legislative chambers have unionized, but California is in the process of seeing its legislative staff unionize, and New York is watching, Welch noted.

“These things take time and I wanted to make sure we did thorough research. This required diligent and thorough research. We did it,” Welch said.

What they want: Illinois workers say union representation would protect them when they want to speak out and allow them to negotiate better wages.

With Welch behind the bill, its passage is all but assured in the Democratic-controlled House. Pritzker, who supported AFSCME Council 31’s state employee contract a few months ago, said he supports the legislative employees’ union efforts.

That’s a far cry from California, which took five tries before it was able to pass a law earlier this month allowing staff to unionize.

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Alice Ross

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