Guest Columnist Chuck Sullivan: Amendment Provides Necessary Assurance on Union Rights

President Sullivan recently wrote an editorial on the Workers’ Rights Amendment for the Daily Herald

When emergency strikes, every second matters.

We all want the peace of mind that comes with knowing when we face the worst moments of our lives — a raging fire at our home, a traumatic car accident, a medical emergency — our trained, well-prepared firefighters and paramedics will be there as quickly as possible to help. Day after day, our members do just that, putting their lives on the line to serve everyone else.

In November, Illinoisans have an opportunity to acknowledge this selfless service by supporting the Workers’ Rights Amendment on the ballot. We can give public service workers and first responders the firm protection needed to protect the public every time necessary.

The Amendment provides a simple but powerful and necessary assurance: the rights public service workers have earned today will be there tomorrow.

It wasn’t that long ago — less than 40 years — when collective bargaining was just a wish. Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois and other advocates recognized workers who put their lives on the line deserve more than hope and earned the bipartisan support from the legislature and then-Gov. Thompson for a seat at the negotiating table backed by state law.

Today, we ask for those same protections to be put into the State Constitution for selfless reasons. Our firefighters and paramedics can best respond when they are well-trained and have the tools and equipment necessary to mitigate the wide array of emergencies that occur every day.

The threats to these protections are very real and growing. In communities across the suburbs, around Illinois and at the Statehouse, misguided politicians have discussed, proposed and unilaterally pursued cuts to emergency personnel and services that would put families in greater danger. Our members know that without a constitutional guarantee, it could just be a matter of time before these protections are chipped away

The Amendment’s opponents are trying hard to fool and scare you, because they know workers’ rights are really Illinoisans’ rights. Our local affiliates have dedicated themselves to constantly improving their performance, negotiating stringent medical evaluations, staffing levels and training to reduce fatalities and improve safety — for firefighters and everyone we serve in emergencies.

Each year, about 100 firefighters nationally die in the line of duty, from heat stress or overexertion to being struck by an object or vehicle mishaps. In states like Illinois with proper collective bargaining protections, research has proven that fewer die in the line of duty.

I encourage all Illinoisans to vote for the Workers’ Rights Amendment as the peace of mind we all deserve when disaster strikes. When each second matters, we all depend on immediate response and protection, and the Amendment will ensure it will always be there.

  • Chuck Sullivan is President of the Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois in Springfield.