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Union Membership Has Been Increasing in Illinois in Recent Years

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As Spring turns to Summer, a lack of a state budget, and funding for higher education, continue to plague the Land of Lincoln. These two conditions have put the state of the economy, as a whole, in bad shape. As a result, more workers in Illinois are choosing to unionize — something officials believe is a trend.

“In the future, our numbers are going to increase. We’re going to see more educators, specifically, not only workers generally, but educators specifically, joining unions,” Kenzo Shibata of the Illinois Federation of Teachers says.

This includes the Stateline, as the state’s financial crisis has led employees at Northern Illinois University to announce their intent to unionize, in addition to the support staff at Rock Valley College — announcements that came within two days of each other.

Officials believe this is the right move for teachers.

“With the union, teachers actually have the voice. They actually have say so in how resources are allocated. Without it, they are really just depending upon administrators to do the right thing,” Shibata said.

The recent increase in unionized employees is the reversal of a longtime trend in Illinois.

The Illinois Economic Policy Institute reports that since 2006, Illinois’ union membership rate declined by 1.2 percentage points.

But from 2012 to 2015 the state’s unionization rate increased from 14.6% to 15.2% and total union membership increased by 47,000 workers.

Officials from one local alliance of unions say they have seen the uptick in union membership, and say it is the right path to success.

“It’s really the best way to go for anybody in the construction industry, with fair wages and health insurance and benefits you’re not going to get anywhere else,” Brad Long, President of Northwestern Illinois Building Trades tells Eyewitness News.

The increase in union workers has continued to decline in Chicago, however, meaning the recent increase has come from downstate and the Stateline area.

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