Illinois House Speaker’s Staff Members Sue Over Ongoing Unionization Dispute |  News

Illinois House Speaker’s Staff Members Sue Over Ongoing Unionization Dispute | News

SPRINGFIELD – Members of a potential union representing staff in House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch’s office filed a lawsuit against their boss on Friday, asking a Cook County judge to force recognition of the union.

The Illinois Legislative Staff Association, which formed in the fall of 2022, claims that Welch’s refusal to engage in collective bargaining since then is a violation of the Workers’ Rights Amendment, which Illinois voters approved in the November 2022 elections.

“As a result,” the ILSA claimed in its lawsuit, Welch “has created a climate of fear or anxiety within staff” who allegedly feel vulnerable “to dismissal or removal” from their jobs because the speaker has not recognized the ILSA.

Welch, for his part, rejected the characterization that he has hindered unionization efforts, maintaining that state law does not allow legislative staff to unionize. In September, after the association spent the summer criticizing the president, Welch announced a bill that would explicitly allow legislative staff to unionize.

The following month, he sat alongside potential union members to testify on behalf of House Bill 4148 during the General Assembly’s fall veto session, celebrating the bill’s passage in the full House.

Read more: Chamber approves framework that allows legislative staff to unionize

But in a scathing open letter that ILSA published last week in the days before the General Assembly was scheduled to adjourn, the association accused Welch of passing the bill “to deflect growing criticism.” They also accused him of feigning solidarity in public while in private he colluded with Democratic Senate President Don Harmon to ensure that the bill “would not advance further” once it passed the House.

Read more: Legislative staff union hopefuls accuse Welch of undermining organizing effort

However, in its lawsuit on Friday, the association mocked the bill itself, complaining that it contained a “poison pill” that would force ILSA members to collectively bargain with Republican staff in the House. The association noted that GOP staff are hired by a different employer and accused Welch of inserting that language “to make it potentially impossible for the Speaker to claim authority to conduct negotiations.”

The association’s lawsuit is based on the Workers’ Rights Amendment of 2022, which established a “fundamental right” for Illinois workers to organize and bargain collectively.” It also prohibits the state from enacting “any law that interferes with, denies, or diminishes the right of employees to organize and bargain collectively.”

Read more: Voters to decide on ‘right to unionize’ constitutional amendment | Illinois House Speaker’s Staff Could Test Limits of Workers’ Rights Amendment

Welch spokeswoman Jaclyn Driscoll said the spokesperson’s office has not yet received a lawsuit, but will “thoroughly review” the complaint once it receives it.

He also referred to his response last week to ILSA’s open letter, in which he said Welch was “proud” to sign the measure last fall and “remains hopeful that the bill will become law.”

The president’s office also noted nine specific areas of improvement for staff within the president’s purview since Welch took office in 2021, including pay increases of nearly 14 percent this year, following increases last year that averaged 8 percent. percent.

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of newspapers, radio and television stations throughout the state. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and the Southern Illinois Editorial Association.