Taking another shot at public employee unions, Gov. Bruce Rauner said Monday he’s ending “fair share” union dues for state workers who have opted out of joining a union.
At the same time, Rauner said the state will mount a case in federal court with the idea of having the U.S. Supreme Court rule that fair share union dues are unconstitutional.
He said the case will be handled at no cost to taxpayers by famed former U.S. Attorney Dan Webb and his Winston & Strawn law firm.
Rauner called fair share union dues a violation of workers’ First Amendment rights.
Rauner said about 6,300 state union members have said they do not wish to pay fair share union dues. That is a comparatively small number of state workers covered by union contracts. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, which represents the largest number of state workers, has about 39,000 members in state government.
Rauner said fair share deductions for those employees should be held in an escrow account until the court case is resolved.
“We already know who’s clearly said they don’t want to be in the union are still being forced to pay a very large amount each month of these unfair fees,” Rauner said. ”They call that ‘fair share.’ Let me tell you, it’s anything but fair.”
Rauner said workers have to pay an average of $577 a year in fair share dues, even if they don’t want to support the union. Fair share dues are charged to people who do not want to be part of the union, but who nonetheless benefit from union activities such as labor negotiations.
“These forced unions dues are a critical cog in the corrupt bargain that is crushing the taxpayers,” Rauner said “An employee who is forced to pay unfair share dues is being forced to fund political activity with which they disagree.”
AFSCME said Rauner’s action is illegal.
“Bruce Rauner’s scheme to strip the rights of workers and weaken their unions by executive order is a blatantly illegal abuse of power,” said AFSCME executive director Roberta Lynch in a statement. “Perhaps as a private equity CEO Rauner was accustomed to ignoring legal and ethical standards, but Illinois is still a democracy and its laws have meaning. It is crystal clear by this action that the governor’s supposed concern for balancing the state budget is a paper-thin excuse that can’t hide his real agenda: silencing working people and their unions who stand up for the middle class.”