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Political leaders promote Workers' Rights Amendment at AFT bus tour stop in Peoria

 Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker speaks at the American Federation of Teachers Get Out the Vote bus tour stop in Peoria on Monday.
Collin Schopp
Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker speaks at the American Federation of Teachers' "Get Out the Vote" bus tour stop Monday in Peoria.

The American Federation of Teachers' “Get Out the Vote” Bus Tour brought state and national labor leaders, as well as Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker and Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton to Peoria on Monday afternoon.

Outside the Labor Temple in downtown Peoria, state Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth and state Sen. Dave Koehler also spoke in support of Democratic candidates in the upcoming election and the Workers’ Rights Amendment.

“We're going to enshrine it in our Constitution,” said Gordon-Booth, "if we get all of our family, all of our friends out to vote for the Workers’ Rights Amendment.”

Several leaders of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) also were present.

“The most important thing it would do is just put in the Constitution the right to collectively bargain,” said Dan Montgomery, president of the Illinois Federation of Teachers. “It's a right that other countries have in their national constitutions. We don't have it here. And all it says is that no one can ever take the right away from working people to bargain collectively.”

Montgomery asserted opponents of the amendment are misrepresenting its purpose.

“This doesn’t guarantee anything, it isn’t a contract,” he said. “If this passes, all it says is that working people will always have the right to bargain collectively in Illinois.”

Every speaker voiced their support for the Workers’ Rights Amendment, including AFT president Randi Weingarten and Illinois AFL-CIO president Tim Drea. Stratton shared a personal connection to the teacher's organization.

“My late mother Velma was a teacher, and every single day that I'm blessed with a new day to serve the people of Illinois,” said Stratton. “I know she is with me, cheering me on in the fight for equal justice and opportunity for all, reminding me to plant seeds for our kids and our communities, even if I won't be there to see all of them bloom.”

Officials also spent part of their speeches touching on other issues related to the upcoming election, like abortion rights, inflation and the minimum wage.

“Democrats deliver, Republicans are a bunch of pretenders,” said Pritzker. “But even with all the progress that we've made over the last few years, there's still so much more to do. That's because (GOP gubernatorial nominee) Darren Bailey doesn't believe in your right to collectively organize in favor of fair wages, better working conditions, health insurance and paid time off.”

Pritzker touted several other items as accomplishments of the Democratic party and his administration, including expanding access to childcare, the Reproductive Rights Act, tax relief and credit upgrades for the state.

The stop was one of 25 the bus tour will make in 10 states through election day on Nov. 8.

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Collin Schopp is a reporter at WCBU. He joined the station in 2022.