Worker freedom: More than 3,700 Illinois state workers stopped paying money to a union in 2018

Worker freedom: More than 3,700 Illinois state workers stopped paying money to a union in 2018

Of the more than 3,700 Illinois state workers who stopped sending part of every paycheck to a union, 2,800 stopped sending their money to AFSCME.

Given a choice, more than 3,700 Illinois state workers have decided to keep their pay rather than give a portion to a union.

On June 27, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a historic First Amendment victory to public sector workers nationwide whose forced union payments were pushing political agendas with which the workers did not necessarily agree. The landmark Janus v. AFSCME ruling offered workers the freedom to associate with a union or not, and the Illinois state workers opting out of the unions are seeing pay increases as a result.

Those 3,700 Illinois state workers do not include local government workers such as police and teachers who stopped paying union fees. That number, obtained from state data, does include 2,800 state employees who stopped sending money to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME.

It’s not surprising that so many state workers represented by AFSCME have decided to keep more of their money.

For decades, AFSCME has taken its stream of funds for granted, and prioritized spending around union leaders and politics, rather than representing the interests of workers. Filings with the U.S. Department of Labor show only 20 cents of every dollar AFSCME collects goes toward representational activities. The rest? Overhead, administration, contributions to other groups and politics, according to federal filings. What’s worse, an Illinois Policy Institute analysis found that even much of that “representational” spending reported by AFSCME is in fact political, rather than representational, in nature.

According to the Wise Giving Alliance, a project of the Better Business Bureau, a nonprofit should spend at least 65 percent of its total expenses on program activities. Suppose it came to light that a disaster relief organization spent only 20 percent of its funds helping victims: Its donors – or those who contribute their hard-earned money to the organization – would justifiably feel deceived.

For decades, government unions rationalized mandatory nonmember fees by invoking the myth of “free riders” – unions by law must represent all workers, so those who benefit should help pay for the union’s representation. Unions complained they were forced to negotiate on behalf of all government workers regardless of whether an individual was a union member, so the individual should be forced to pay the union for their help. Trouble is, it was government unions who fought for the special privilege of carrying the full representational burden in the first place. The unions have repeatedly stood in the way of efforts to relieve that burden.

If Illinois’ government unions truly wish to purge “free riders,” they should reconsider their opposition to current proposals that would achieve true workers’ choice: 1) receive union representation and pay dues, or 2) pay no dues and represent oneself at the workplace.

If you are a public sector worker in Illinois and would like to exercise your right to stop paying money to the union, visit If you would like to stop sending money to AFSCME, visit

Want more? Get stories like this delivered straight to your inbox.

Thank you, we'll keep you informed!