Illinois Case Could Deal Major Blow to Public Sector Unions

Forty years ago, the Supreme Court ruled that no public employee could be forced to join a union, but that non-union workers in states including Illinois must pay what are called fair share fees. Those fees are supposed to help pay for the benefits workers get from union representation.

But Janus v AFSCME, a case out of Illinois that is backed by Gov. Bruce Rauner and conservative donors and activists, aims to do away with fair share fees.

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Mark Janus, an Illinois child support specialist, is suing the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Council 31. Janus neither wishes to join AFSCME nor pay fair share fees – and the conservative group representing him argues he’s hardly alone.

“Right now, about 5 million government workers across 22 states are forced to give part of every paycheck to a union just to keep their jobs. We argue that violates their First Amendment rights. It forces them to pay for somebody else’s political advocacy that they might not agree with, and it forces them to associate with a group that they might not want to associate with,” said Jacob Huebert, director of litigation for the Liberty Justice Center.

The political advocacy Huebert mentions is the very act of a union negotiating wages and working conditions – since those are funded by taxpayer dollars, Huebert and other conservatives argue that’s effectively lobbying. But AFSCME Council 31 public affairs director Anders Lindall says that’s not true, and argues this case isn’t as much about fair share fees as it is about a broader effort to weaken unions.

“The Janus case, although fronted now by a lone state employee, was started by Bruce Rauner, and has been funded throughout by other billionaires like Rauner and corporate special interests that have been fueling coordinated attacks against ... the freedom of working people to come together and have a voice through their unions,” Lindall said.

Lindall and Huebert join Chicago Tonight for a conversation.

Read a transcript of the oral arguments at the Supreme Court.

Attorneys for both sides of Janus v AFSCME presented arguments to the Supreme Court on Monday. (Courtroom sketch by Bill Hennessy)Attorneys for both sides of Janus v AFSCME presented arguments to the Supreme Court on Monday. (Courtroom sketch by Bill Hennessy)

Related stories:

US Supreme Court to Take on Union Fees Case Janus v AFSCME

Sept. 28: An Illinois case will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, and it could have huge ramifications for public unions.

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