United States

Staffer blasts IL House Speaker’s ‘poor’ attempt to meet demands

(The Center Square) – After 18 months of being rebuffed by House Speaker Emmanuel “Chris” Welch, the Organizing Committee of the Illinois Legislative Staff Association says it’s taking its demands to the court system.

The crux of legislative staffers’ lawsuit is that Amendment 1, a workers’ rights amendment approved by in 2022, enshrines the right for unions to negotiate working conditions, something the speaker has said he supports, in the Constitution. Welch supported the Amendment in 2022.

Brady Burden is the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit.

“There are two ways to force the speaker to bargain with us. One way is through the courts and the other way is through labor action like a strike. Considering we are public servants and we’re trying to avoid impacting the people of Illinois as much as possible, we decided to go through the court system,” Burden said.

Prior to Amendment 1 being ratified in 2022, Burden said the speaker could have sat down with the legislative staff, recognized the union and bargained.

“The only reason he hasn’t done it is because he doesn’t want to. Whether that’s because his advisors, like his HR director or chief counsel, or it’s a personal decision of his … he could,” Burden said.

Welch sponsored legislation last fall to allow staff to unionize, but the measure didn’t make it through the Senate and it has received pushback. Burden said Welch’s bill would delay union recognition until 2026. The bill would have also prohibited the staff from striking during the spring and fall sessions.

Burden said House Bill 4148 was poorly written and in bad faith, and was never going to get through the Senate.

“There’s several fatal flaws with the bill… it gerrymanders partisan employees into the same bargaining unit, it delays recognition until 2026, no striking on session days,” Burden said.

Burden said Welch tends to tout the bill as his attempt to meet the staff’s demands, but Burden also said the bill would take away all the staff’s leverage in bargaining. Burden said the governor should be the one to negotiate with the union directly.

Attempts to reach the House Speaker’s office were made, but they did not immediately respond to The Center Square’s request for comment.

“What we want is for the speaker to stop ignoring this and stop acting like the bad faith effort he put forward last year actually meant anything and we want him to actually come to the table and recognize the union,” said Burden.

On the Senate floor, Republicans raised concerns about the bill staff’s unionization efforts. Republicans say if their effort succeeds, they will be put at a disadvantage because Democrats often put forward legislation last minute and future union contracts might restrict staff’s ability to analyze the state’s budget at 2 a.m.

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