March 05, 2015

Unions file suit to halt governor’s illegal action

Today – Thursday, March 5 – the Illinois AFL-CIO, AFSCME and 25 other unions representing more than 40,000 Illinois state employees filed suit in St. Clair County Circuit Court to invalidate Gov. Bruce Rauner’s unlawful executive order blocking state agencies from collecting “fair-share” fees

The lawsuit asserts that Rauner’s order violates state law and multiple collective bargaining agreements.

“The men and women who do the real work of state government are first responders, nurses, caregivers and corrections officers. They plow snow, protect children, care for veterans and do many other tough, essential jobs that benefit all Illinois residents,” Illinois AFL-CIO president Michael T. Carrigan said. “Governor Rauner’s political obsession with stripping their rights and driving down their wages demeans their service, hurts the middle class and is blatantly illegal. We’re asking the court to restore the integrity of our democratic process and make clear that no one, not Governor Rauner or anyone else, can place themselves above the law.”

The filings follow earlier statements from Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger, a Republican, and Attorney General Lisa Madigan, a Democrat, who said that the governor’s order is illegal.

Fair share agreements are authorized by the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act – which was signed into law by Republican Gov. Jim Thompson in 1983 – and included in each of the state’s contracts with each of the unions  who are plaintiffs in the suit.

The unions’  complaint avers the governor’s order violates state government’s separation of powers.

“Rauner has usurped the constitutional power of the legislative branch by promulgating an Executive Order that effectively repeals a duly passed Public Act[and] has unlawfully exercised the executive power vested in the Governor,” the complaint states. “The executive power is the power to faithfully execute the laws enacted through the legislative process, not to refuse to implement the laws that have been properly enacted by the State.”

Gov. Rauner has falsely claimed that his order makes workers more “free.” In reality, contrary to the governor’s frequent misstatements, no employee is required to join any union. Instead, fair share agreements provide that a union-represented employee who chooses not to join and pay dues is obligated only to pay a proportional fair share of representational costs for the union activities from which they benefit. (Also contrary to the governor’s statements, by law, fair share excludes political contributions.)

The governor’s own rhetoric and the language of the executive order itself make clear that his true intent is to drive down the wages earned by first responders, teachers, nurses, corrections officers, child protection workers, and other state employees by weakening their unions.

“Governor Bruce Rauner believes state employees are overpaid and receive excessive benefits for their public service. He wants to cut their wages and benefits,” the lawsuit states. “The Executive Order is expressly intended to prevent ‘Illinois state employee unions’ from ‘using ... fair share fees to ...influence ...wages, pensions and benefits, that are currently mandatory subjects of collective bargaining under the Illinois Labor Act.”

The unions also filed a motion to dismiss Gov. Rauner’s related lawsuit in federal court.

In addition to the Illinois AFL-CIO, the 26 unions that are party to the legal filings include affiliates of AFSCME, the Fraternal Order of Police, the Illinois Nurses Association, the Illinois Federation of Teachers, the Teamsters, SEIU, the Laborers, the Police Benevolent and Protective Association, the Bakery Workers, the Bricklayers, the Carpenters, the Electrical Workers, the Operating Engineers, the Food and Commercial Workers, the Machinists, the Painters, the Plumbers and the Metropolitan Alliance of Police.

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