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Illinois State Employees Sue Over Mandatory Union Dues

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In a lawsuit filed Monday, three state employees in Illinois challenged a law which forces them to pay union dues even when they aren’t in a union.

“Illinois law forces most employees of state government to pay money to a union as a condition of keeping their job,” Diana Rickert, the director of media relations for the Illinois Policy Institute, noted in a statement to The Daily Caller News Foundation.

In many states workers who decide not to be in a union still have to pay a fee. The fee, known as fair share dues, is meant to only cover the cost of representation as opposed to political contributions or other financial transactions taken by unions. While supporters of the idea argue unions have to represent nonmembers anyways so they might as well pay something, opponents believe nonmembers should have the right to not pay anything at all.

“The legal action being filed today argues that state workers have a First Amendment right not to pay for speech they disagree with by an organization they don’t want to support,” Rickert continued. The three state workers are being represented by Liberty Justice Center, the legal arm of IPI.

“Every time a new government worker is hired, the union gets a cut,” Rickert continued. “Even if the worker doesn’t want to be in a union, pay money to a union or be covered by the union contract, the worker has no choice.”

Recent court cases are giving hope to groups like IPI and others opposed to mandatory union dues. Most notably, last June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Harris v. Quinn that home health workers could not be forced to belong to a union or pay fees to a union. If the Illinois case goes to the Supreme Court, which Rickert is optimistic it will, a favorable ruling could mean the end of mandatory dues for government workers.

“We believe the court will outlaw the practice of forcing government workers to pay money to a union if they don’t want to be a part of the union,” Rickert also noted. “This would deliver a devastating blow to government unions across the entire country.”

Local lawmakers have also gone after mandatory union dues. In February, Gov. Bruce Rauner ordered state agencies to stop collecting fair share dues while also filing a federal lawsuit to end the state law that requires them. Democrat lawmakers and unions in the state were quick to condemn the governor’s actions.

“Government unions and Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan filed a motion to dismiss Rauner’s lawsuit, arguing the governor did not have standing to bring this suit because he is not a government worker,” Rickert detailed. “With Monday’s legal action, that changes.”

At the time Madigan argued that the executive order violated Illinois law and the lawsuit had no merit because Rauner was not directly affected by mandatory dues.

“I filed a motion to intervene in the federal lawsuit to defend the constitutionality of Illinois’ law,” Madigan argued in a statement. “Along with the motion to intervene, I have submitted a motion to dismiss the case, arguing that the Governor does not have the legal authority to sue to challenge the law in federal court.”

In Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, a similar case of California, several teachers are also challenging forced union dues. The Supreme Court is expected to decide by the end of April whether to hear the case.

Rauner has argued that reforming labor policy and unions will allow the state to overcome some major economic obstacles that have hindered progress in recent years. According to IPI, the state is struggling in jobs and education, two areas vital to economic growth and stability.

“Illinois’ low standing for total job growth is unusual given that Illinois has the largest population in the Midwest and the fifth largest nationally,” the Institute noted in a report for 2014. “It takes a particularly toxic combination of bad policy and corrupt dealings to hinder such a large and talented workforce from keeping up with the likes of Kentucky and Connecticut.”

“Illinois tracks last of all states for private-sector job creation in 2014, one of only four states to be negative for jobs on the year,” the report added.

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