AFSCME dues help defend Madigan in sexual harassment lawsuit

Mailee Smith

Staff Attorney and Director of Labor Policy

Mailee Smith
/ Labor
December 13, 2019

AFSCME dues help defend Madigan in sexual harassment lawsuit

AFSCME gave $71,400 in October to Friends of Michael J. Madigan – the same election committee the Illinois House speaker used to pay legal fees in a sexual harassment lawsuit.

Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan has spent nearly $900,000 defending his political machine against federal sexual harassment and retaliation claims, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Last week he settled with the plaintiff, Alaina Hampton, for $275,000. Hampton had accused former Madigan employee Kevin Quinn of bombarding her with unwanted texts seeking a romantic relationship.

But the money for the settlement and legal fees doesn’t solely come out of Madigan’s pocket. Instead, he’s paying for it through his election committee, Friends of Michael J. Madigan.

That committee is heavily funded by government unions. In October 2019 alone, government unions and their political action committees funneled over $255,000 to the speaker’s committee, according to filings with the Illinois State Board of Elections. Nearly $400,000 more in October and November was funneled into other Madigan-controlled committees named in the lawsuit.

Of that amount, $71,400 came from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the national organization for Illinois’ largest public employee union.

Generally, only a portion of member dues stays local, and the rest is passed up the chain to state and national affiliates. Sometimes members choose to give an additional amount to support a union’s political agenda through a political action committee.

But the $71,400 contribution to Friends of Michael J. Madigan did not come from AFSCME’s PAC. Instead, it came directly from AFSCME’s headquarters.

This means there was nothing to keep AFSCME from using member dues to fund the speaker’s sexual harassment defense.

AFSCME members upset by the union’s spending have recourse: They can opt out of union membership and stop funding the union’s political agenda with their dues.

Workers who opt out of union membership are still guaranteed the benefits provided in the collective bargaining agreement.

That’s because decades ago, Illinois’ government union leaders lobbied for the exclusive right to represent all public employees – both members and nonmembers. And that means nonmembers retain all benefits provided in the collective bargaining agreement, regardless of membership status.

Examples may include the following:

  • Salary and raises
  • Health insurance
  • Pension benefits
  • Vacation days and holidays
  • Overtime pay
  • Seniority
  • Leaves of absence (including sick leave)

To learn more or to opt out online, visit leaveafscme.com.

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