Public Unions

Three Illinois State Workers Sue for Freedom from Unions

Governor gets support from economic liberty litigators.


Gov. Rauner
Credit: Metropolitan Planning Council

In February, Illinois' Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner announced both an executive order and a lawsuit to force the state to stop requiring state employees to pay "fair share" union dues if they did not want to join the union. Unions represent almost all government employees in Illinois whether they want it or not. Those who don't join still have to pay dues to the union and accept their representation in areas like collective bargaining.

The state's attorney general, Lisa Madigan (a Democrat) is intervening in the lawsuit and asking it to be dismissed for lack of standing (Rauner notably pays no union dues). Rauner fully expected the move, according to Crain's.

But now in response, three state employees are attempting to join the lawsuit. They do pay union dues and want to stop. The three of the are represented by libertarian lawyer and scholar Jacob Huebert, senior attorney at the Liberty Justice Center. He announced the suit yesterday and filed the motion (pdf) in federal court. The three of them have so far paid more than $13,000 to the unions but are demanding it stop to "protect their First Amendment rights to free speech and association." According to the motion they object to "many of the Unions' policy positions, including positions taken in collective bargaining."

The battle is already turning into a complex mess in just a month, unsurprising, as we're talking about Illinois here. Rauner wants to handle the matter in federal courts, but the unions are trying to keep it in the state courts, where judges have been very friendly to union objections to pension reform. Here's how the Associated Press describes the situation:

Labor unions and Democratic Attorney General Lisa Madigan are asking the judge to dismiss the case. They argue the lawsuit doesn't belong in federal court, in part because Rauner's own First Amendment rights aren't being violated. They also say Rauner's actions violate state law, and filed a lawsuit of their own against the governor in state court in St. Clair County — the venue they say is most appropriate to settle the matter.

Rauner then filed in federal court in Illinois' Southern District, where St. Clair County is located, to have the case moved to federal court. But Yandle rejected the request Monday, saying the lawsuit only raises questions of state law.

Rauner wants the issue in federal court because he wants the U.S. Supreme Court to ultimately declare the dues unconstitutional, ending them throughout the country. Labor unions want the matter in state court because they don't want to risk a ruling with national impact.