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Op-Ed: A time to celebrate labor’s successes, acknowledge its challenges in Illinois

Illinois AFL-CIO

Tim Drea

This has been a long, hot labor summer for workers across Illinois, and climate change cannot be blamed.

This Labor Day, we take time to remember the sacrifices made over many decades by the thousands of working men and women across Illinois. We thank our policymakers in Springfield and Chicago for consistently stepping up to support working families.

We must acknowledge that our gains have come with continued challenges.

After voters approved last year’s Workers Rights Amendment to enshrine worker protections in our constitution, Illinois has partnered with organized labor to improve wages and working conditions for temporary workers, created legal protections for freelancers, increased transparency in wage rates, and ensured the emerging clean energy industry has an equally strong, diverse workforce. Illinois has a new AFSCME contract to ensure the dedicated state employees in our agencies and facilities are appropriately compensated and protected.

Pat Devaney

We never take these advancements for granted. We see neighboring states attacking working families through misguided policies such as right-to-work or loosening child labor protections. We remain diligent and resilient, even in our victories.

We see some of these struggles right here.

Just this year, labor has found itself at the center of a number of worker strikes and actions to demand better. Nurses have hit the picket line at Chicago-area hospitals. Professors and staff have followed suit at universities across the state. Cannabis dispensaries and a major shipping company have not been immune.

Even Hollywood is facing a new storyline. The workers who provide the backbone for the television, movie and streaming productions that we cannot get enough of have stood up to say paltry salaries and three cent residuals must improve. They have yet to persuade the mega-bucks producers, but we remain hopeful they will make progress soon.

This Labor Day, we encourage you to take a moment to think about the teachers, nurses, plumbers, set riggers, drillers, entertainment professionals and so many more men and women who sacrifice every day to make our lives better. We have included here a list of labor-sponsored events this Labor Day to support our brothers and sisters. Please come out and join us to send the message that Illinois is union strong and growing stronger every day.

  • Belleville: Aug. 31, Southwestern Illinois CLC 55th Annual Labor Award Dinner; Sept. 4, Labor Day Parade and Picnic
  • Bloomington-Normal: Sept. 4, Labor Day Parade
  • Champaign-Urbana: Sept. 4, Labor Day Parade and Picnic
  • Danville: Sept. 4, Labor Day Parade
  • Decatur: Sept. 4, Labor Day Parade and Picnic
  • Galesburg: Sept. 4, Labor Day Parade
  • Granite City: Sept. 4, Labor Day Parade and Picnic
  • Peoria: Sept. 4, Labor Day Parade
  • Quad Cities: Sept. 4, Labor Day Parade (40-year anniversary)
  • Quincy: Sept. 2, Labor Day Picnic
  • Rockford: Sept. 4, Labor Day Parade, Picnic and Pageant
  • Southern Illinois: Now through Sept. 4, Du Quoin State Fair


Tim Drea is president and Pat Devaney is secretary-treasurer of Illinois AFL-CIO in Springfield.

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