County-Level Support Driven by Union Members, Military Veterans, Households with Children, and Households with Middle-Class Incomes
Chicago, IL: The Workers’ Rights Amendment passed in November 2022 with bipartisan support, driven by union members, military veterans, and households with middle-class incomes—according to a new political analysis conducted by the Project for Middle Class Renewal (PMCR) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the Illinois Economic Policy Institute (ILEPI).
Read the study, How the Workers’ Rights Amendment Passed in Illinois: A Political Analysis here.
The Workers’ Rights Amendment added Section 25 to the Illinois Constitution, guaranteeing the fundamental right to organize and to bargain collectively while preventing laws from being passed that interfere with, negate, or diminish that right. Among all ballots cast, the vote was 53.4% yes and 37.6% no, with 9.0% not voting. Of those voting on the ballot question itself, Illinois residents voted 58.7% yes to 41.3% no, a net yes difference of more than +17 points. Fully 64.1% of the Chicago area voted yes and 50.2% of the rest of Illinois (“Downstate”) voted yes.
“The Workers’ Rights Amendment elevates Illinois as one of the most pro-union states in the nation,” said ILEPI Executive Director and study coauthor Frank Manzo IV. “The Amendment is stronger than constitutional provisions that protect collective bargaining rights in three other U.S. states and prevents future legislation that weakens unions, reduces workplace safety standards, and undermines Illinois’ labor market competitiveness.”
In their study, PMCR and ILEPI researchers used county-level data from the Illinois State Board of Elections, the U.S. Census Bureau, the Illinois AFL-CIO, and the Illinois Education Association to assess the performance of the Workers’ Rights Amendment across the state. Overall, the data showed that the Workers’ Rights Amendment earned the most support in counties with high shares of union members, average household incomes between $75,000 and $99,999, and high racial and ethnic diversity. However, the Amendment most outpaced Democratic Governor JB Pritzker in rural, Republican-leaning, and white working-class communities—earning nearly 151,000 more votes Downstate than the incumbent governor.
“The Workers’ Rights Amendment performed well in Democratic-leaning constituencies, but not strong enough to succeed without bipartisan support,” said PMCR Director, University of Illinois Professor, and study coauthor Robert Bruno, Ph.D. “The Amendment could not have won without support from white working-class voters from rural communities that have been drifting away from the Democratic Party.”
Specifically, the analysis found that a 10 percentage-point increase in Governor JB Pritzker’s share of the voter in the gubernatorial election increased the yes vote share on the Amendment by +7 points. A 10 percentage-point increase in the county’s share of residents who are union members increased the Amendment’s yes vote share by another +6 points. Working-class counties, counties with more military veterans, and counties with more households with children were also linked with higher yes vote shares on the Amendment.
Researchers noted that Republican-leaning union members may have been crucial. In Downstate counties with more Democratic-leaning union members than Republican-leaning union members, the Amendment outperformed Governor Pritzker by +9 points. In the Downstate counties with more Republican-leaning union members than Democratic-leaning union members, the Amendment outperformed Governor Pritzker by +16 points.
“In the last decade, union members in Illinois have perceived threats coming from both politicians within Illinois and unelected judges as far away as Washington, D.C.,” added Bruno. “Although many union members may have voted for Pritzker’s rival, they also likely reacted to these recent experiences by leaning into their union cards and supporting the Workers’ Rights Amendment.”
With the Amendment reaching the ballot with support from a bipartisan group of lawmakers—including a majority of Republican State Senators in Illinois—and public approval of labor unions reaching a six-decade high, other states may consider efforts to pass similar constitutional protections in upcoming years, particularly those with high unionization rates, Democratic partisan leans, and high shares of middle-class voters.
“To be clear, the Workers’ Rights Amendment would not have passed without the majorities and large numbers of voters in Chicago and the suburbs, but the Amendment outperformed in rural, less affluent counties Downstate with high shares of white working-class residents,” concluded Manzo. “The data clearly shows that the Workers’ Rights Amendment was a bipartisan victory from start to finish.”
The Project for Middle Class Renewal (PMCR) at the University of Illinois investigates the working conditions of workers in today’s economy to elevate public discourse aimed at reducing poverty, create more stable forms of employment, and promote middle-class jobs.
The Illinois Economic Policy Institute (ILEPI) is a nonprofit organization which uses advanced statistics and the latest forecasting models to promote thoughtful economic growth for businesses and working families.
Media Contact: Frank Manzo IV, 708-375-1002, firstname.lastname@example.org