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In the final weeks of session, Illinois lawmakers will consider a critical bill that would not only legalize the possession and sale of specified amounts of recreational marijuana, but would also automatically expunge conviction records for certain cannabis related offenses. By clearing criminal histories for an estimated 800,000 residents, SB 7 would undertake tangible steps towards achieving racial equity, justice and opportunity in Illinois.

Earlier this week, the politically powerful Illinois State's Attorneys Association (ISAA) voiced sharp opposition to the bill's crucial automatic expungement provision. In the following days, a representative from the Governor's office indicated at a legislative hearing that Pritzker would be willing to negotiate on the record clearing measure in order to advance cannabis legalization this session. Without a guarantee of conviction expungement, the recreational marijuana legalization bill would extend a hollow offer to the millions of Illinois residents directly impacted by the devastating and racially targeted war on drugs.


ISAA claims that the automatic expungement clause in the current marijuana legalization bill establishes a separation of powers violation, falsely asserting that the provision would unconstitutionally confer the governor's exclusive pardon rights upon the state legislature. However, SB 7 in no way authorizes the Illinois General Assembly to grant pardons. Rather, by passing the bill, the legislature would simply exercise its rightful authority to revise the state's legal code. In recent years, Illinois lawmakers enacted multiple amendments to the Criminal Identification Act, which governs state expungement policy, including the adoption of a similar automatic record clearing clause in 2016.


For decades, ISAA has relentlessly campaigned to obstruct criminal justice reform and propagate a regressive theory of public safety that relies on aggressive law enforcement and draconian sentencing practices. This misguided approach has only served to systematically undermine safety and liberation for communities of color. Indeed, county prosecutors across the Illinois have played an instrumental role in propelling the state's inhumane and racially targeted practice of mass incarceration.


No single piece of legislation can undo the far-reaching devastation unleashed by decades of predatory policing and overly punitive sentencing laws. And in fact, SB 7 would only moderately advance racial justice in Illinois, as the policy addresses just a limited number of minor cannabis offense categories and falls far short of enacting retroactive resentencing reform. However, the automatic expungement provision would remove barriers to employment, education and housing for hundreds of thousands of Illinoisans. WCRJ believes that passage of the entire bill - along with meaningful reform of toxic law enforcement practices, retroactive resentencing and racially equitable economic investment - is imperative in order to foster safety, opportunity and liberation for people of color across the state.


We've made it super easy to send a one-click, prewritten message urging Governor Pritzker, members of the Senate Executive Committee, and the Illinois State's Attorney Association President to support automatic expungement of cannabis related charges.


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Since March, WCRJ’s allies have sent over 1,200 emails through our Racial Justice Online Action Center, demanding support from state lawmakers on policies that would promote equity, opportunity and liberation in Illinois. As a result of your commitment, two important bills that aim to secure crucial protections for workers across the state have passed the Senate. These policies now require passage through their assigned House committees before advancing to a full floor vote. As we enter the final weeks of session, WCRJ is demanding that Illinois lawmakers prioritize passage of these crucial policies.


With just a few clicks, you can send a pre-written message of support for these bills to every member of their assigned committees:


SB 1485, would require the Illinois Department of Human Rights (IDHR) to establish a telephone hotline and online portal for workers impacted by racial discrimination and harassment to anonymously report and pursue complaints. (Read More)


SB 471 would require all Illinois employers to provide full-time employees with a minimum of five days of paid sick leave per year. (Read More)



Your voice is vital to advancing the fight for racial equity. Advocate for the change you want to see in your city, state and beyond by visiting WCRJ’s Racial Justice Online Action Center and demanding policy action of your elected officials.

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Yesterday, the Illinois legislature passed an important bill that would safeguard protections for hundreds of thousands of workers across the state. SB 1474 would prohibit local governments from enacting anti-labor “Right to Work” ordinances. In order to ensure fair labor standards for all Illinois workers, WCRJ is calling upon Governor Pritzker to immediately enact SB 1474.



In recent years, so called “Right to Work” policies have been aggressively championed by rightwing, pro-business interest groups in an effort to curtail the power of workers to collectively negotiate fair labor standards. Right to Work laws prohibit organized labor from requiring non-union employees to pay reduced rate “fair share” dues. In order to effectively negotiate equitable labor standards for all employees, unions rely on small fees from every staff member who stands to benefit from such contracts. Anti-labor activists deceptively frame the issue as a matter of free speech, despite the fact that fair share fees only finance union negotiating efforts, not political activity.


From its inception in the 1940s, the Right to Work movement sought to destabilize organized labor by stoking racial resentment among white workers. Its founder, oil magnate and white supremacist Vance Muse, exploited anti-Black sentiment held by segregationist southerners, arguing (accurately) that increased unionization would accelerate workplace integration and improve wages for workers of color. The anti-Black motivations behind Right to Work policies persist in the modern day.


Historically, organized labor has advanced critical workplace protections for employees of color and served to reduce racialized wage discrimination. For this reason, Black employees in Illinois are significantly more likely to be unionized than any other racial group. Collective bargaining also sets higher local wage standards, which benefits workers throughout the state.  By undermining the ability of unions to collectively bargain on behalf of all employees, local Right to Work ordinances pose a serious threat to Black workers across Illinois.


The Illinois legislature has judiciously upheld workers rights by refusing to enact proposed Right to Work policies. However, in 2015 the village of Lincolnshire succumbed to politicized pressure of corporate interest groups and passed a local Right to Work ordinance into law. In swift opposition, four unions mounted a legal challenge to Lincolnshire’s policy on the basis that the U.S. Constitution only upholds state level Right to Work legislation, not that of subordinate local governments. The lawsuit is now poised to be considered by the U.S. Supreme Court, which, as a result of recent Trump administration nominations, has assumed an extremist anti-worker disposition. In order to protect Illinois workers from future assaults on collective bargaining rights, the state must outlaw local Right to Work ordinances.



Your voice is crucial to advancing the fight for racial equity, opportunity and justice. Advocate for the change you want to see in your city, state and beyond by visiting WCRJ’s Racial Justice Online Action Center and demanding policy action of your elected officials.

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