Union leaders vow to campaign for ‘Fair Tax’ amendment
Labor union leaders from throughout Illinois spoke out Thursday for voter approval of the proposed graduated state income tax, saying the pandemic has underscored the need for taxation that’s fair to working people.
“Our communities have been living in perpetual crises,” said Greg Kelley, president of SEIU Healthcare. “We all deserve a brighter future, and this is why we need the Fair Tax.”
Fair Tax is the name proponents have applied to the proposal to replace Illinois’ flatrate income tax with graduated rates that increase for those who earn more money. The proposal is on the ballot as a constitutional amendment in the Nov. 3 election.
Voters will see messages for and against the proposal dominating the airwaves and mailboxes soon. Gov. J.B. Pritzker has poured $56.5 million from his family fortune into the Vote Yes for Fairness PAC supporting the graduated tax, while business groups are raising money to fight it.
Some 125 unions representing 1 million members in Illinois will be contacted and urged to support the amendment, the union leaders said at a virtual news conference. The proposal “would give workers relief at a time of extreme hardship,” said Robert Reiter Jr., president of the Chicago Federation of Labor.
The CFL and SEIU Healthcare are among the labor-affiliated groups that have an ownership stake in Sun-Times Media.
Opponents, who have branded the plan the Blank Check Amendment, have framed the debate as involving trust in government, arguing the Illinois Legislature ultimately could raise taxes on the middle class. They have used the ComEd corruption scandal targeting Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan to make their case.
Reiter said those making Madigan the issue are hiding their true motives. “It’s really just a way to protect rich guys on the right,” Reiter said.
The Illinois flat tax on income is 4.95%.