Workers’ Rights

The labor movement has historically provided U.S. workers with reliable pathways into good, middle-class jobs. Labor unions improve economic outcomes for workers primarily through collective bargaining, which is a process of negotiation between employers and workers that promotes democratic workplaces.

Unions households earn between 10% and 20% more than nonunion households.

95% of union workers have access to health care coverage compared with just 68% for nonunion workers.

68% of Americans support labor unions, with unions for teachers and nurses having the highest approval.

With nearly 800,000 members, unions continue to play an important role in communities across Illinois. Teachers, police officers, firefighters, construction workers, registered nurses, and delivery drivers all have high unionization rates in Illinois.

22% of essential workers are union members in Illinois
African Americans and Veterans are more likely to be union members
Unions boost wages by 11% on average for workers in Illinois

Union membership, however, has gradually declined across America due to the spread of so-called “right-to-work” laws. “Right-to-work” laws allow workers to free ride and take all the services and benefits of collective bargaining – such as higher wages, better health care, and legal representation – without paying anything for them. By restricting the ability of workers to join together and collectively bargain, “right-to-work” laws weaken unions.

“Right-to-work” states have:

Illinois is one of 23 states, and the District of Columbia, with collective bargaining freedom laws. Compared with their counterparts in the 27 states with so-called “right-to-work” laws, the people of Illinois have:

6% higher incomes
32% fewer workplace fatalities
5% greater health care coverage

The Workers’ Rights Amendment passed in November 2022 by 17 points with bipartisan support—driven by union members, military veterans, and households with middle-class incomes. The Amendment ensures that workers in Illinois continue to earn middle-class incomes, protects workers’ safety, and prevents future legislation that weakens unions and undermines Illinois’ labor market competitiveness.