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AFSCME District Council 31

Fair share fees protected in Illinois

A judge in Illinois dismisses politically charged case around fair share fees for state workers

Kris LaGrange's picture
Oct 03, 2016

For years, those supporting Right to Work (for less) have been trying to attack worker and union protections when they can’t get rid of unions outright.  In Illinois, after Governor Bruce Rauner couldn’t get Right to Work (for less) passed, he actually sued public sector unions to try and prevent them from collecting so called “fair share” dues.  Now a judge has ruled on the case.

After Rauner sued, a judge in May of 2015 ruled that the Governor could not sue a public sector union over dues since the Governor did not actually pay dues to the union.  After the Governor lost this embarrassing case, two state workers took up the fight.  The lawsuit revolved around the idea that since they didn’t want to be a part of the union they shouldn’t have to pay fair share dues, or dues to cover the work that union staff does for everyone in the workplace regardless of whether they are active in the union or not.  Once an employee decides to leave the union, they may not get the benefits of being a member but they still get protections like salary increases when a new contract is negotiated by the union.  These fair share fees go to cover their share. 

What the lawsuit attempted to do was allow these people to opt out of the union but still receive the benefits that the union got for the entire workforce.  Essentially they wanted to be allowed to freeload off their coworkers.  This case was similar to the Friedrich’s case which was stumped by a 4-4 decision by the Supreme Court.  In the Chicago case, the judge decided to dismiss the case saying that since Friedrichs’ did not overturn precedent, Rauner couldn't decide in favor of getting rid of fair share fees.

These freeloaders may have lost, but there are more freeloader cases on the way. Some of these cases are coming from states that are less friendly to labor and it is only a matter of time before another case like Friedrichs makes it to the Supreme Court.  This makes the upcoming election all the more important for union members looking to protect the strength of collective bargaining since the Supreme Court ideological balance hangs with whichever candidate is elected in November. Trump will weaken unions, Clinton will strengthen them.

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