Bill Knight column for Thurs., Fri., or Sat., March 26, 27 or 28
Rauner’s latest attack against labor follows a legal respond by the Illinois AFL-CIO and 26 unions, which this month filed suit in state court in St. Clair County, where they asked a judge to undo Rauner’s executive order eliminating unions’ “fair-share” fees.
The lawsuit – from unions such as the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the Fraternal Order of Police, the Illinois Federation of Teachers, the Illinois Nurses Association, the Service Employees International Union, and the Teamsters – says the first-term Republican acted beyond his constitutional authority, violated Illinois law, and broke unions’ contracts.
The suit asks a judge to issue an injunction preventing the order from being implemented.
“The order is patently illegal,” the lawsuit states. “It is outside the governor’s executive-order authority under the Illinois Constitution. And it violates each of the labor agreements that plaintiffs have with the state.”
Workers are not forced to join unions that represent them, but they are required to pay a lower fee to share costs of non-political activities such as bargaining and enforcing contracts through grievance and arbitration. The Republican governor’s administration estimated his edict would prevent Illinois unions from collecting about $3.75 million annually to cover their expenses in representing all workers where a majority voted for union representation.
Also on March 5, unions went to federal court to dismiss Rauner’s federal lawsuit filed last month in U.S. District Court challenging the legality of fair-share fees. Rauner wants a Chicago court – and eventually the U.S. Supreme Court – to declare fair-share fees unconstitutional, which could take years.
The unions’ motion argues the issue shouldn’t be heard in federal court because it’s a question of state law, not federal law.
Issued in February, Rauner’s order to divert fees established in labor contracts – going around the legislature – is one of the steps the multimillionaire businessman has taken against unions since taking office. He’s also seeking the authority for local governments to set up “Right To Work zones” prohibiting contracts signed by employers and unions to collect fair-share fees.
Rauner initially ordered the Comptroller’s office to withhold the money from the unions, but Comptroller Leslie Munger, a Republican who Rauner appointed to fill the vacancy left by the death of Judy Baar Topkina, said she wasn’t legally couldn’t. Rauner then had to induce agencies under his control to do so.
His attacks have angered and united organized labor.
“The men and women who do the real work of state government are the first responders, nurses, caregivers and corrections officers,” Illinois AFL-CIO president Michael Carrigan said in a prepared statement. “They plow snow, protect children, care for veterans, and do many other tough, essential jobs that benefit all Illinois residents. Governor Rauner’s political obsession with stripping their rights and driving down wages demeans their service, hurts the middle class and is blatantly illegal.”
The unions contend Rauner’s order “purposefully attempts to weaken plaintiff unions.”
In the unions’ lawsuit, they say the money is needed to ensure they have adequate resources as they negotiate with the state. For instance, AFSCME’s current agreement expires June 30.
Rauner has said there are about 6,300 workers who pay fair-share fees averaging $577 a year. The plaintiff unions represent about 40,000 state workers.
[PICTURED: Glenn Schmidt photo via nhlabornews.com.]