Rally in Charleston supports Worker’s Rights Amendment


Rob Le Cates

More than 30 people attended the Workers Rights Rally at Morton Park Sunday afternoon. The rally had several planned speakers and impromptu crowd speakers giving personal testimonies and speeches on the importance of workers’ rights.

Madelyn Kidd, News Editor

Eastern’s AFSCME President Kim Turner and one of EIU-UPI’s team negotiators, Betsy Jewell, spoke at a Worker’s Right Rally held by Coles Progressive and Coles County Democrats on Sunday.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 981 and Eastern’s chapter of the University Professionals of Illinois are two unions at Eastern who represent a wide variety of Eastern employees. The Worker’s Rights Rally was a rally to encourage Illinois voters to vote for this year’s election by Nov. 8, and to vote yes on the Worker’s Rights Amendment to the Illinois Constitution.

This amendment was proposed to benefit workers in unions within Illinois and workers in Illinois who are not a part of a union.

The amendment proposed to be added under Article I of the Illinois Constitution reads as followed:

“Employees shall have the fundamental right to organize and to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing for the purpose of negotiating wages, hours, and working conditions, and to protect their economic welfare and safety at work. No law shall be passed that interferes with, negates, or diminishes the right of employees to organize and bargain collectively over their wages, hours, and other terms and conditions of employment and workplace safety, including any law or ordinance that prohibits the execution or application of agreements between employers and labor organizations that represent employees requiring membership in an organization as a condition of employment.”

Mac White, chairperson for the Coles County Democrats, delivers a speech which includes Coles County Democrats are looking for helpers to watch polls and people to hand out information door-to-door during the workers rights rally at Morton Park Sunday afternoon. White said he encourages democrats to start getting connected to form a strong community together. (Rob Le Cates)

This would provide workers within unions or not, more protection under the constitution.

Betsy Jewell, a member of EIU-UPI, on the negotiation team during the ongoing negotiations for a new contract over the last nine months and a faculty assistant in the student publications office, said she first started working at Eastern when she was 21 in 1997. 

Jewell was just out of college, and being part of a union kept her from still being on six-month temporary contracts today.

Jewell had received four six-month temporary contracts when EIU-UPI stepped in to get Jewell a full contract.

“But thank God for the Union,” Jewell said. “Because after you’ve been on two years of temporary contracts and the position I was in, you’re automatically put into the Union and then they fight for you, right? So [I’m] 21 or 22. I had no idea what I was doing. I had no idea that these temporary contracts were not in my best interest, but my union did. And so thank goodness for that. Thank goodness that that automatically kicked in. I didn’t have to do anything to fight for those rights because today, if they could have done so, I would probably still be in a temporary six-month contract renewing every six months.”

This was the first of many experiences Jewell had with a union that helped her receive benefits from Eastern in her best interest. 

Jewell urged others to vote yes for the Worker’s Rights Amendment because decades from now, there might not be unions to advocate for Illinois workers, but at least this amendment would protect workers.

From left, Chairmen of the Douglas County Democrats and Secretary Donna Gillespie talk with Coles County Board Candidate Matt Titus before the start of the workers’ rights rally at Morton Park Sunday afternoon. The two said they came to the rally to show solidarity among democrats, noting there isn’t enough in today’s country. Warner said he wants to let all democrats know there is strength in numbers and encourage union support. (Rob Le Cates)

Kim Turner, AFSCME Local 981 president and an office manager of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences dean’s office, said the AFSCME union helped protect her and other Eastern employees when the state budget impasse happened. 

The state budget impasse impacted public universities across Illinois and led to Eastern having to make several budget cuts and many employees were laid off.

Turner said AFSCME helped her keep her job and taught her what unions can do.

“That was when I really kind of started to see what unions could do,” Turner said. “Because our union and unions across the state marched to Springfield and confronted local legislators and called them out for their inaction, the reckless behavior that caused the loss of all these jobs. And our union held our ground against the governor, who at the time was trying to destroy unions… But all of our unions across the state, we held our ground and eventually sent him packing back to Florida- I guess that’s probably where he is.”

Coles County Board Candidate Gail Mason delivers a speech on workers’ rights and why they are important during the workers rights rally at Morton Park Sunday afternoon. (Rob Le Cates)

Turner explained why she voted yes for the Worker’s Rights Amendment when she voted early.

“I voted yes to ensure that our workplaces are as safe as they can possibly be,” Turner said. “I voted yes to put more money in the pockets of our families so that we can support our community and our economy. And I believe yes to give everyone a bill so that we can all make meaningful change to help better serve our future.”


Madelyn Kidd can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected]