3 state workers seek to join Rauner lawsuit over union dues

AP News
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Posted: Mar 23, 2015 7:09 PM

CHICAGO (AP) — Three Illinois state employees on Monday sought to join Gov. Bruce Rauner's lawsuit against labor unions, a legal maneuver aimed at trying to end mandatory union dues for nonmembers across the U.S., not just in Illinois.

All three workers' jobs are covered by collective bargaining agreements, but the employees opted not to join their union. In a motion filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago, they say the requirement they pay so-called "fair share" dues, which range from about $19 to $60 per month, violates their First Amendment right of free speech because they disagree with union policies.

"The First Amendment guarantees everyone the right to choose whose speech they support and what groups they associate with," said Jacob Huebert, an attorney for the employees. "State workers shouldn't have to sacrifice that right just to keep their jobs."

But in a separate case, a federal judge for the Southern District of Illinois ruled a lawsuit unions filed over Rauner's order ending the dues should be heard in state court, not federal court. U.S. District Court Judge Staci Yandle's ruling was seen as a victory for organized labor as they battle with Rauner and his supporters over where the matter should be decided — a question that could have an impact on unions nationwide.

Rauner issued an executive order last month ending the dues, which nonmembers are required to pay to cover the cost of non-political union activities that benefit all employees, such as collective bargaining. The order effectively keeps about $3.75 million each year from the unions' bank accounts.

The new Republican governor also sued more than two dozen public-employee unions, asking a federal judge in the Northern District of Illinois to declare the dues unconstitutional.

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.

The three workers' motion to intervene in Rauner's case is an attempt to keep the case in federal court. They argue their First Amendment rights are directly affected, even if Rauner's are not.

The workers are represented by lawyers from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which has been involved in similar legal battles in other states, and the Liberty Justice Center, a public-interest law firm started by the conservative Illinois Policy Institute.

The plaintiffs are Mark Janus, who works for the Department of Healthcare and Family Services; Bryan Trigg, a land acquisition engineer with the Department of Transportation and Marie Quigley, an executive with the Department of Public Health. Janus and Quigley are from Sangamon County, while Trigg lives in Edgar County, according to the court document.

In court filings, the employees say they believe the labor unions have made Illinois' financial situation worse. They also say they don't agree with their unions' political positions and certain policies, such as preferences giving to employees based on tenure rather than performance.

Michael Carrigan, president of the Illinois AFL-CIO, called the organizations representing the employees in court "anti-worker" and said he wasn't surprised to see them supporting Rauner's efforts.

"We are opposed to workers having a free ride where the union is required to represent them without reimbursement for representation expenses that are non-political in nature," Carrigan said.

Rauner Spokesman Lance Trover called the employees' motion "encouraging," even as unions "are clearly attempting to avoid allowing the federal courts to decide this issue."