House Speaker Emanuel "Chris" Welch, D-Hillside, is pictured with Senate President Don Harmon (left), D-Oak Park. (Capitol News Illinois file photo by Jerry Nowicki)

Welch introduces bill to allow legislative staff to unionize

SPRINGFIELD – House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, has filed legislation that would, for the first time in Illinois, authorize legislative staff to form a union and engage in collective bargaining.

House Bill 4148, creating the Legislative Employee Labor Relations Act, comes in response to a monthslong effort by Democratic staff in the speaker’s office to unionize and negotiate wages, hours and other working conditions.

“For a while now, I had some staff approach my office seeking voluntary recognition as a union,” Welch said in an interview Wednesday. “And my legal advisors advised me that Illinois law currently specifically prohibits that. So as someone who believes in workers’ rights, this legislation is my attempt to create a legal path for them to have that right.”

Last year, a group of workers in the speaker’s office formed the Illinois Legislative Staff Association, which has been seeking recognition as a union. Brady Burden, a member of that group’s organizing committee, said in an email Wednesday that the committee was scheduled to meet with management in the speaker’s office later that day.

“We are happy to see the Speaker file this bill,” Burden said in a statement after that meeting. “We look forward to working together in good faith and coming to an agreement.”