February 13, 2015

Comptroller, attorney general say Rauner order striking fair-share fees isn't legal

UPDATE: After Comptroller Leslie Munger and Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced their opposition to Gov. Rauner’s executive order, the governor’s office announced that state agencies under the control of the governor would withhold fair-share fees when processing payroll and retain an amount equal to those fees. Payroll employees are already questioning whether there’s any operational means to allow for such withholding.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE: Leslie Munger, the Republican state comptroller, and Lisa Madigan, the Democratic attorney general, agree that Governor Bruce Rauner’s executive order intended to invalidate fair-share provisions in state law and union contracts is illegal. That’s according to the influential Capitol Fax newsletter, which broke the news, and following media reports from the Chicago Sun-Times and statewide radio.

Munger’s office indicates that the law requires her to send fair-share payments to the relevant unions that represent state employees, according to the news reports. “We agree with the Comptroller,” Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s spokeswoman said. “Fair share fees are constitutional under the current law and she must follow the law.”

Fair share agreements ensure that all workers who benefit from union representation pay their fair share of the costs of that representation—negotiating and enforcing the union contract—even if they choose not to join the union. Fair share payments do not support any political activity.

“AFSCME encourages every union-represented employee to become a full dues-paying member,” AFSCME Council 31 executive director Roberta Lynch said, “but contrary to Governor Rauner’s claims, no employee is ‘forced’ to join the union. Employees have the option not to join and to pay only the fair share fee.”

"It is gratifying to know that two of our state's constitutional officers are clearly committed to upholding the Constitution,” Lynch added. “That they include both a Democrat and a Republican shows that preserving the integrity of our democracy isn't a partisan or political issue. No elected official has the right to place themselves above the law.

"We have said that Gov. Rauner's executive order was clearly illegal, and meant solely to strip workers of their ability to have a voice in the decisions that affect their lives. State employees throughout Illinois will welcome Comptroller Munger and Attorney General Madigan's determination that the order should not stand.”

Since the governor issued his executive order on Feb. 9, AFSCME local unions have reported an increasing rate of inquiries from state employees who currently pay fair share fees and now want to join the union. They recognize the governor’s Executive Order for what is plainly is—an attempt to weaken the union and drive down workers’ wages and benefits.

Council 31 director Lynch said that the governor’s actions are particularly disturbing given the state’s current fiscal woes.  “He should be working to bring Illinois citizens together rather than trying to foster divisions and animosity,” she said. "We renew our pledge to work constructively with anyone of good faith to move beyond the governor's polarizing attacks and begin to address our state's real challenges."

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