Executive Director Reports

Just say no

 Roberta Lynch

Roberta Lynch

Rauner-backed Illinois Policy Institute laying groundwork for massive anti-union campaign

Is it possible that someone who detests you and attacks you at every opportunity would suddenly decide to invest time, effort and even money to help you out? Doesn’t seem too likely, does it? But that is the pure hokum that the Illinois Policy Institute (IPI) will soon be trying to sell to every public employee in Illinois.

The IPI is a shadowy, billionaire-backed front group that calls itself a “think tank.” It’s devoted to dismantling the public sector and degrading public employees of every kind. And, of course, they especially loathe the unions public sector employees have formed to improve their working lives.

Among countless other attacks on public employees, the IPI has:

Bruce Rauner gave the IPI more than half a million dollars in funding. In turn, the IPI aided and abetted Rauner when he tried to weaken unions representing state workers by banning Fair Share fees in state government and going to federal court to have fair share deemed unconstitutional.

The court said Rauner had no right to take such unilateral action and dismissed him from the case, but the IPI scoured state government and unearthed a DHFS employee named Mark Janus who was willing to carry their water.

Today that lawsuit—Janus v. AFSCME Council 31—is before the U.S. Supreme Court. Although Mark Janus remains the front man, Rauner refers to the litigation as his case and the biggest thing he’s ever done. It’s no surprise that Janus is represented by the Liberty Justice Center, the litigation arm of the Illinois Policy Institute.

Rauner and his IPI buddies are giddy because the Court’s pro-corporate, anti-union majority is all too likely to ban public sector unions from collecting fees from represented employees who are not members.

The State Policy Network, to which the Illinois Policy Institute belongs, has hailed the Janus case as a “mortal blow” against public employee unions. They are laying the groundwork for a massive outreach campaign, contacting every public employee in Illinois to encourage them to drop out of their union.

The IPI will claim to want to help employees by letting them know that even if they’re not members—and pay not a penny in dues or fees—the union will still have to represent them and they’ll still benefit from the union’s gains.

But there’s the catch. If the IPI can get thousands of teachers, nurses, correctional officers, sanitation workers, social workers, clerical workers and other public employees to drop their union membership, then unions will be starved of resources and won’t be able to make any gains for anyone.

That’s what Rauner and the Illinois Policy Institute really want.

Their true goals are weakening unions, driving down wages and benefits and shifting ever more power into the hands of the wealthy elite who already control so much of the political process in our country.

It’s up to every union member to refuse to be played by the big-time scammers of the Illinois Policy Institute and their ilk.

When Bruce Rauner tried to abolish Fair Share fees in state government, more than a thousand fee-payers immediately signed up as dues-paying members. They knew exactly what Rauner’s game was—not helping workers, but weakening their collective power.

That’s what the Illinois Policy Institute will be up to when they or some other phony front group comes knocking at your door, ringing your phone, or accosting you on the way to work. They’ll try to trick you into surrendering on the spot, giving up the fight for a decent standard of living and basic rights on the job, giving up the strength that comes from joining together as a union.

The saying is old, but it will stand us in good stead when they come: Just say no.

But when your coworkers reach out and ask you to sign a card pledging to remain a union member, just say yes.

If we all do that, together we can keep building a strong union for years to come.