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Laboratories of Democracy
Rauner Challenges Public Employee Unions

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner issued an executive order Monday to release public employees from unions’ obligatory “fair-share fees”—the dues that union non-members are required to contribute on the principle that they too benefit from union negotiations. The new GOP governor is making his objection on First Amendment grounds, the Chicago Tribune reports:

Illinois statute prohibits those fees from being used to support political activities, but Rauner contended it’s nearly impossible to draw a distinction because public sector unions directly negotiate with the government.

“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.”

Rauner is drawing on a Supreme Court case of last year, Harris v. Quinn, in which

[l]awyers argued that the workers, who were designated “public employees” and organized by the Service Employees International Union, were not true state employees and therefore couldn’t be required to pay the union fees.

By a 5-4 majority, the justices agreed, and ruled that compelling the home health care workers to pay union fees violated the First Amendment. The justices stopped short of ruling on the larger question of whether any public-sector workers can be compelled to pay the fees.

The Supreme Court may take up the question again this year, in a case brought by California teachers to overturn a similar law requiring them to contribute to unions they haven’t joined and don’t agree with. (For the big picture on public unions, take a look at Daniel DiSalvo’s article “The New Spoils System,” in our upcoming issue.)

This is shaping up to be a year of challenges to public union power, but just as importantly, a year in which the spotlight will be on the states. Though the GOP took a victory lap after its Senate sweep, we can expect little more from Congress beyond bickering and temporizing. Not so in the laboratories of democracy; Scott Walker started the year off with a dramatic plan for Wisconsin’s university system, and Rauner seems to be following in his union-riling footsteps. The GOP’s governors are stars to watch rise or fall in 2015.

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  • FriendlyGoat

    Since we have six Catholics on the Supreme Court who have punted on overturning Roe, and who “probably” are going to approve same-sex marriage (per events of Monday), we might want our Catholic parishioners to ask themselves whether they really want their guys, Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, Alito and Kennedy, to be INSTEAD starting a string of decisions with their ruling in Harris v. Quinn to quash the entire USA labor movement. We have five Catholic Republicans on SCOTUS who are treating corporations REALLY well and treating ordinary people REALLY badly. That ought to have been a subject of national debate in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014—–but better late than never. Something very questionable is going on with our Court and 2015 would be a great time to raise the “question”. Why is an over-weight of five Catholics working to disadvantage people, including tens of millions of parishioners?

    • Tom

      Because, as we all know (regarding Harris v. Quinn) that taking care of one’s own sick parent is definitely the sort of thing that should be covered by a union. Furthermore, the labor movement cannot survive without the involuntary enrollment of new members–and, of course, their dues money. Move along quickly and protest the corporations, now.
      And since your opening statement overlooks the fact that, at the very least, Thomas and Scalia dissented, it calls into question everything else you have said.

      • Andrew Allison

        Have ever said?

        • Tom

          In fairness to FG, almost all of those are in GOP-controlled states.

          • Andrew Allison

            Are you seriously suggesting that there’s no correlation? LOL

          • Tom

            I thought I was suggesting there was one.

      • FriendlyGoat

        First of all, this article tells us that the Governor of Illinois is citing Harris as a reason to release ALL Illinois public employees from paying fair-share dues. So this is about a string of Republican actions and ideas likely headed back to SCOTUS over time and I’m speaking to all of that with my complaints about an overweight of one gender, one party and one church on the Court.

        Citizens United was “excused” by the five Catholic Republican males for allowing more private money into elections by the fact that it would also apply to unions which put money in elections. Likewise, McKutchen. Sooooo, just as we hear that the Koch Brothers alone are committed to spending $900,000,000.00 on the 2016 elections, we see Republicans acting in all states to see how much union money they can KNOCK OUT of elections. Where does that leave little people?

        I’m saying that the five Catholic Republican males were a bit less than candid with their stated reasoning and that a lot of the liberal Catholics ought to be HAVING A FIT at them for rather consistently favoring power over citizens. As for future decisions, THOSE are actually the only ones which can be influenced by such public-opinion fits.

        • Tom

          From the article: “fair-share fees”—the dues that non-unionized public workers are required to contribute.
          Yes, that is most definitely all the public employees in Illinois.
          And the liberal Catholics constantly have fits at Scalia, Thomas, Roberts, and Alito. They barely tolerate Kennedy because he votes their way on abortion and gay marriage.

          • FriendlyGoat

            Well, it rather “is” all of the public employees in Illinois wherever there are labor contracts. The governor is inviting union members to quit, because he now says that everyone can have benefit of union representation without paying anything if they’d “rather” just get it for free.

            The fits that liberal Catholics are having against Scalia, Thomas, Roberts and Alito are not loud enough. There may be some pro-choicers and pro-gay-marriage people out there yelling, but I have never heard a single Catholic criticizing these men for super-empowering the already powerful and taking power away from little people. And THAT is precisely the blatant slap to the Catholic ideal of social justice of which these men are guilty—-term after term after term. Kennedy is with them on that stuff, of course, or else the four would be losing 4/5 instead of winning 5/4. Liberals who “tolerate” Kennedy are pretty shallow thinkers.

          • Tom

            If they all quit, there will be no union. Furthermore, many are ideologically committed to the idea of a union–they are government employees, after all.
            Also, you’ve not been reading the right people. Liberal Catholics hated Citizens United with the fiery passion of ten thousand suns.

          • FriendlyGoat

            Liberal Catholics have never bothered to break through to a national debate about the problem five. The complaint has to get out of parish walls and publications. It hasn’t and that’s the problem I keep yelling about .
            Five guys from one church making bad decision after bad decision should enrage those church members who care more about Catholicism than Republicanism AND enrage all of us who are not in that church too. Honestly, I feel like a one-man band on this subject. We are too “polite” to touch it, and people are actually losing their country over it—-a little at a time.

          • Tom

            The second sentence of your last paragraph is incorrect.

          • FriendlyGoat

            If you ever get over imagining that, you’re welcome to join us lefties.

        • Josephbleau

          You are really beginning to sound much like a bigot against the religious, Catholics endure a deal of hard stereotyping from the secular democratic hedonistic puritans but you seem to be over the top. Don’t define people by their religion please.

          • FriendlyGoat

            I’m actually more friendly towards—–and more concerned about—–tens of millions of Catholic parishioners than their five guys on the Court seem to be. Don’t play the bigot card on me. This is about a problem bunch of judges actually slapping the Catholics—WHO ARE INDIVIDUALS, NOT CORPORATIONS—-with regularity. We need to yell until they stop voting together on all the business issues—-and I plan to.

  • Anthony

    Economic growth and lack thereof affects people’s attitudes – attitudes consciously influenced by two respective points of view (am I moving or falling (economically); how are those around me living and are they better off). Anti-union sentiment and politicians who exploit it reveal a consequence of stagnant economic growth (especially since 2008 for general populace). That is, Rauner and others advantage their policies via exploiting attitudes undergirded by two separate benchmarks operable among general public: how are my circumstances compared to past experience and how are the people’s circumstance around me – i.e., union employees (public). Economics, economics, economics (with a mixture of social comparability).

  • Stormcrow

    Well as a current resident of the People’s Republic of Illinois i find it very hard to get teary eyed about the public unions plight. The states labor board has been rigged so thoroughly that any complaint by a public union against a local government is pretty much automatically approved. It’s funny because the Fire Union has so successfully jacked up its pay that the city had to stop hiring on police. I tried making a uplifting Woody Guthrie ballad out of that but no such luck. The concept that state employee unions funneling money to weasely politicians being a heroic battle of the little people is almost hallucinatory. Oh well iwould like to worry about the grand strategy of political finance but I am much more concerned about the 120 billion dollar hole the state is in. If Rauner can turn it around well then Hooray!!!!, but I think we are to far down the rabbit hole. Before anyone froths at the mouth I am a former Teamster so private Union yes public union no.

  • JR

    The point of unions is to protect their members at the cost of everybody else. That’s why every single union dominated industry in the US has gone bankrupt. This is also why union membership has been declining in the private sector for the past 40 years. Public sector unions take a while longer to bleed the host dry, but as we see from Greece and Detroit, they can do it. I have the utmost confidence in unions’ ability to bankrupt Illinois.

    • Suzyqpie

      When the Democrats are at the negotiating table with the public sector unions, no one is representing the taxpayers.

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