CHICAGO – Three Illinois state employees on Monday sought to join Gov. Bruce Rauner’s lawsuit against labor unions, a legal maneuver aimed at trying to end mandatory union dues for nonmembers across the U.S., not just in Illinois.
All three workers’ jobs are covered by collective bargaining agreements, but the employees opted not to join their union. They say the requirement they pay so-called “fair share” dues, which range from about $19 to $60 a month, violates their First Amendment right of free speech because they disagree with union policies.
“The First Amendment guarantees everyone the right to choose whose speech they support and what groups they associate with,” said Jacob Huebert, an attorney for the employees. “State workers shouldn’t have to sacrifice that right just to keep their jobs.”
Rauner issued an executive order last month ending the dues, which nonmembers are required to pay to cover the cost of non-political union activities that benefit all employees, such as collective bargaining. The order effectively keeps about $3.75 million each year from the unions’ bank accounts.
The new Republican governor also sued more than two dozen public-employee unions, asking a judge in U.S. District Court in Chicago to declare the dues unconstitutional.
Labor unions and Democratic Attorney General Lisa Madigan are asking the judge to dismiss the case. They argue the lawsuit doesn’t belong in federal court, in part because Rauner’s own First Amendment rights aren’t being violated. They also say Rauner’s actions violate state law, and filed a lawsuit of their own against the governor in state court in St. Clair County – the venue they say is most appropriate to settle the matter.
Whether the case is heard in state or federal court could have broad implications for U.S. labor law. Rauner said he hopes the case will eventually make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where if justices side with him, the ruling could end fair share dues for unions throughout the country.
The three workers’ motion to intervene in Rauner’s case, filed Monday, is an attempt to ensure the case remains in federal court. They argue their First Amendment rights are directly affected, even if Rauner’s are not.
The workers are represented by lawyers from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which has been involved in similar legal battles in other states, and the Liberty Justice Center, a public-interest law firm started by the conservative Illinois Policy Institute.
The plaintiffs are Mark Janus, who works for the Department of Healthcare and Family Services; Bryan Trigg, a land acquisition engineer with the Department of Transportation and Marie Quigley, an executive with the Department of Public Health. Janus and Quigley are from Sangamon County, while Trigg lives in Edgar County, according to the court document.
In court filings, the employees say they believe the labor unions have made Illinois’ financial situation worse. They also say they don’t agree with their unions’ political positions and certain policies, such as preferences giving to employees based on tenure rather than performance.
Michael Carrigan, president of the Illinois AFL-CIO, called the organizations representing the workers in court “anti-worker” and said he wasn’t surprised to see them supporting Rauner’s efforts.
“We are opposed to workers having a free ride where the union is required to represent them without reimbursement for representation expenses that are non-political in nature,” Carrigan said.