The Republican governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner has long made clear his distaste for labor unions pushing for a “right to work
for less” law for the state. On Monday he launched his latest assault on public employees’ unions with an executive order exempting public employees from the state’s statute requiring those who choose not to join a union to pay “fair share fees.”
Fair share fees are intended to pay for the expenses incurred in negotiating contracts which benefit not only union members but those who choose not to join the union, but Rauner sees it as a violation of the First Amendment rights of non-union employees.
“Government union bargaining and government union political activity are inextricably linked,” Rauner said. “As a result, an employee who is forced to pay unfair share dues is being forced to fund political activity with which they disagree. That is a clear violation of First Amendment rights and something that, as governor, I am duty-bound to correct.”
Roberta Lynch, executive director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 31, the largest union representing public employees in the state disagreed calling the order, “a paper-thin excuse that can’t hide his real agenda: silencing working people and their unions who stand up for the middle class.”
“Bruce Rauner’s scheme to strip the rights of state workers and weaken their unions by executive order is a blatantly illegal abuse of power,” Lynch said.
The Illinois Constitution guarantees the right to bargain collectively and the move suggests that Rauner is sending a warning to AFSCME before bargaining begins on the union’s contract which expires on July 1.
Expecting the union to fight back, Rauner has filed a preemptive lawsuit in federal court in Chicago asking that his order be declared legal.
There is also a possibility that Democrats in the state legislature will vote to overturn the order.
Watch a report on the order in the video below from WGN Chicago.