Illinois state workers who opted out of union membership see pay increases

Mailee Smith

Senior Director of Labor Policy and Staff Attorney

Mailee Smith
July 13, 2018

Illinois state workers who opted out of union membership see pay increases

State workers previously paying “fair share” fees no longer have money deducted from their paychecks on behalf of a union.

On June 27, the U.S. Supreme Court declared forced union fees violate the First Amendment rights of government workers.

And some state workers are already taking home more money.

Prior to the court’s decision, Illinois state workers who opted out of union membership still had to pay “fair share” fees to the union. Those fees totaled over $700 a year on average, according to an email sent by the Illinois Department of Central Management Services to state employees on June 27.

But after the court ruled in Janus v. AFSCME that those fees violate workers’ rights, the state announced it would stop deducting fair share fees from workers who had already opted out of the union.

These state workers have already seen a difference in their most recent paychecks, as the state is no longer deducting fees on behalf of the union. That means more money goes into workers’ pockets – at no additional expense to taxpayers.

Beyond fair share fees, the state could stop collecting money on behalf of unions from all state workers – not just nonmembers. The Supreme Court held that employees must “clearly and affirmatively consent” before any fees are taken from their paychecks. That signifies government employees must actively opt into union membership, potentially relieving millions of workers from the cumbersome obligation of “opting out.”

It should not matter whether a worker previously signed a membership card or authorized a dues deduction, because the conditions of membership versus nonmembership were different. Those who chose to be members were not presented with constitutional options, meaning that consent was not fully informed.

Employees who opt out of the union will receive the same employment benefits that union members receive, such as health care benefits and retirement benefits. This is hardly a “free rider” situation – Illinois unions fought for the right to monopoly bargaining powers on behalf of all government workers, members and nonmembers alike.

The Janus decision gives more than 5 million government workers – including hundreds of thousands in Illinois – a choice on where to spend their hard-earned money, recognizing their fundamental rights to freedom of speech and freedom of association.

The Supreme Court in its opinion recognized that unions are political organizations and that forcing government workers to support unions financially amounts to coerced political speech. The political nature of unions is evident in the fact that over the past 10 years, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees headquarters spent more money on political activities and lobbying efforts than it did on representing public employees. Before the Janus ruling, public employees were forced to support the union even if they disagreed with its politics.

If you are a government employee in Illinois and would like to exercise your rights to opt out, you can find more information at

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