State workers in Illinois sue to end mandatory union fees

March 23, 2015

CHICAGO (March 23, 2015) -– Illinois law forces most employees of state government to pay money to a union as a condition of keeping their jobs. Even though state employees aren’t forced to be full-fledged union members, they are required to pay fees to the union whether or not they want representation. Today, three state workers represented by the Liberty Justice Center have taken legal action to end that practice.

In February, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner issued an executive order to stop collecting “fair share” union fees from employees of state government who are not union members. Gov. Rauner simultaneously filed a federal lawsuit asking a federal judge in Chicago – and ultimately the U.S. Supreme Court – to declare mandatory non-member union fees unconstitutional. The three state workers represented by the LJC have filed a motion in federal court seeking to intervene in that lawsuit.

“The First Amendment guarantees everyone the right to choose whose speech they support and what groups they associate with. State workers shouldn’t have to sacrifice that right just to keep their jobs,” said Jacob Huebert, senior attorney at the Liberty Justice Center. “No one should be forced to pay money to a government union to keep their job. In filing this motion, these state workers are asking the court to protect their fundamental First Amendment rights and the rights of all state workers.”

The motion was filed this morning in federal court. 

Background: In February, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner issued an executive order to stop collecting “fair share” fees from people who work for state government and are not full-union members. Gov. Rauner simultaneously filed a federal lawsuit asking a federal judge in Chicago – and ultimately the U.S. Supreme Court – to declare non-member union fees unconstitutional.

Government unions and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan asked the court to dismiss Rauner’s lawsuit, arguing the governor did not have standing to bring this suit because he has not been required to pay union fees.  

Regardless of how the court rules on the standing issue, the three state workers taking legal action today do have standing to challenge these union fees. For years, they have been forced to pay money to a union against their will, just to keep their jobs. These plaintiffs seek to intervene in this lawsuit to make sure that their fundamental First Amendment rights are protected.

Due to the magnitude of this case, it may ultimately be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. The court is positioned to rule that mandatory non-member union fees are unconstitutional based on of its June 2014 ruling in Harris v. Quinn, in which a home health worker challenged former Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn. In the Harris decision, the U.S. Supreme Court wrote that a 1977 decision allowing mandatory non-member union fees was “questionable.” In Harris, a majority of the high court ruled that requiring home health workers to pay mandatory union fees was a violation of their First Amendment rights.

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MEDIA CONTACT: Diana Rickert or Nathaniel Hamilton

media@illinoispolicy.org or 312-607-4977