Connect with us

State

U.S. Supreme Court strikes down forced union dues as unconstitutional

Mark Janus, the plaintiff in Janus vs. AFSCME. Photo by Austin Berg | Illinois News Network

Published

on

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday ended the practice of forcing public sector workers to pay union fees as a condition of employment.

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Mark Janus in his First Amendment lawsuit against the AFSCME Council 31.

The decision means Janus, a child support specialist for the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, no longer has to pay what the union calls “fair share” fees for AFSCME’s representation of him.

Writing for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito said forced agency fees are in fact unconstitutional on First Amendment grounds.

“Neither an agency fee nor any other pay­ment to the union may be deducted from a nonmember’s wages, nor may any other attempt be made to collect such a payment, unless the employee affirmatively consents to pay,” Alito wrote.

The decision affects about five million public employees in 22 states without right-to-work laws. They now will be able to join Janus in deciding for themselves whether they want to pay union fees. Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio and Pennsylvania are among the other states that are impacted

Conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch, Donald Trump’s appointee to the bench, cast the decisive vote.

In a very similar case in 2016, the Supreme Court deadlocked, 4-4. In that split decision, Friedrichs vs. the California Teachers Association, justices appeared ready to overturn a four-decades-old precedent and ban states from requiring a public employee to pay fees to unions who represent them even if the employee doesn’t support the union or want its collective bargaining help. But conservative Justice Antonin Scalia died before he could cast the deciding vote.

Gorsuch replaced Scalia on the bench last year.

In Janus vs. AFSCME, the 10-year Illinois state worker challenged a law that required him to contribute part of his paycheck – $45 a month – to a union he decided not to join and one he disagrees with politically.

Union advocates have said the dues Janus pays to AFSCME are his “fair share” for the collective bargaining on wages, benefits and workplace conditions that the union does on his behalf. Janus countered that, regardless of the amount he is forced to pay, collective bargaining itself is a form of politicking that he shouldn’t have to financially support.

Janus has said from day one of his legal battle that he is not anti-union. He said his First Amendment rights guaranteeing him freedom of association were being violated.

Among the rights guaranteed in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is the right to assemble. That right has been broadly interpreted to include the rights of Americans to associate, “peaceably,” with whom they want. That also includes the rights of Americans to not associate with those whom they don’t want.

By taking a portion of his paycheck against his will, Janus successfully argued he was being forced to associate with a union whose policies he doesn’t support.

“I’m thrilled that the Supreme Court has restored not only my First Amendment rights, but the rights of millions of other government workers across the country,” Janus said. “So many of us have been forced to pay for political speech and policy positions with which we disagree, just so we can keep our jobs. This is a victory for all of us. The right to say ‘no’ to a union is just as important as the right to say ‘yes.’ Finally our rights have been restored.”

Wednesday’s ruling nullifies a 41-year-old precedent established in Abood vs. Board of Education, in which the Supreme Court then upheld union fees. Alito said that opinion was wrong.

“Fundamental free speech rights are at stake. Abood was poorly reasoned,” Alito said. Abood “has led to practical problems and abuse. It is inconsistent with other First AMendment cases and has been undermined by more recent decisions.”

Unions quickly criticized the decision.

“Today’s Supreme Court decision in Janus v AFSCME was based on a bogus free speech argument,” Paul Shearon, secretary treasurer of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, said in a statement. “This politically motivated case brought by Mark Janus, paid for by corporate interests, was designed to undercut the bargaining power of those employed in local and state government. This wasn’t about free speech – this was about silencing workers’ voices.”

Jacob Huebert, Janus’ attorney from the Liberty Justice Center, countered.

“This is the biggest victory for workers’ rights in a generation,” Huebert said in a statement. “The First Amendment guarantees each of us, as individuals, the right to choose which groups we will and won’t support with our money. Today the Supreme Court recognized that no one should be forced to give up that right just to be allowed to work in government. The Court recognized that unions have the right to organize and to advocate for the policies they believe in – but they don’t have a special right to force people to pay for their lobbying. They have to play by the same rules as everyone else.”

Gorsuch was joined in the majority by conservatives Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Alito, Clarence Thomas and Anthony Kennedy.

Dissenting were liberal Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor.

 

Article by Dan McCaleb, the editor of Illinois News Network and the digital hub ILNews.org. He welcomes your comments. Contact Dan at dmccaleb@ilnews.org.

Print Page

Illinois News Network, publisher of ILNews.org, is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media company dedicated to the principles of transparency, accountability, and fiscal responsibility in the state of Illinois. INN is Illinois’ pioneering non-profit news brand, offering content from the statehouse and beyond to Illinoisans through their local media of choice and from their digital hub at ILNews.org. Springfield Daily was granted republishing permission by INN.

State

Veto session for Democrats could include ‘football spiking,’ waiting for new governor

Published

on

Most of the election dust has settled, and lawmakers are headed back to the capitol on Tuesday to address some of the 78 bills that outgoing Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed over the summer.

Rauner lost reelection last week to Democrat J.B. Pritzker.

State Rep. LaShawn Ford, D-Chicago, said Democrats will likely heap on more losses for the governor.

“We’re going to be united in overriding the governor’s vetoes pretty much the way the state overrode his tenure as governor,” Ford said.

State Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, called that attitude tacky.

“If they’ve still got aggression to get out after Tuesday, one would have thought they would have gotten all that aggression out, but I guess not,” Rose said. “Maybe they want to go in and still spike the football, do a victory dance.”

Rose said taxpayers won’t like seeing that, and it’s not productive.

State Sen. Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, who serves as the Senate president pro tempore, said with all the challenges facing the state, he doesn’t think there will be gloating during the veto session.

Harmon said Rauner’s loss takes away his leverage in trying to keep Republicans from supporting bills. Aside from “counting noses” on bills to see what measures have enough support for an override, some may consider holding off until next year, he said.

“I think members will also look at their bills and then decide or consider ‘what compromises did I make to pass this bill in a bipartisan environment where we knew we needed a Republican governor to sign it and when I do things differently if I need only a simple majority and have a friendly governor,’ ” Harmon said.

Rose expects Democrats to pass a few bills over Rauner’s veto.

“And then close up shop early and just wait to get their complete all-Chicago, all-the-time domination back,” Rose said.

Several bills are expected to be brought up for an override, including one that would make starting pay for teachers $40,000 over time, another that would address immigrants rights, and a measure to regulate private citizens wanting to rent their car out through car sharing platforms online.

Veto session runs through the end of the month.

Article by Greg Bishop with Illinois News Network. For more INN News visit ILnews.org

Continue Reading

State

Two days after election, Pritzker forms budget working group

Published

on

Illinois Governor-elect J.B. Pritzker announced Thursday that dealing with the state’s financial problems will be a top priority.

To that end, Pritzker said he created a Budget and Innovation Committee that will work to address the state’s dire finances before he takes office.

Two days after beating Gov. Bruce Rauner by 15 points at the polls, he’s formed a transition team and has said more working committees on different issues will be established in the days ahead.

The Democrat appeared in Springfield at the AFL-CIO headquarters for the announcement flanked by various members of the newly announced committee, including former Democratic Illinois Comptroller Dan Hynes. Also on the committee will be former Senate Minority Leader Christine Radogno, a Republican. She was not at the event.

“The Budget and Innovation Committee will mold the guiding moral document that is our state budget and develop inventive solutions to move Illinois forward,” Lt. Gov.-elect Juliana Stratton said in a statement.

Pritzker said the group will evaluate the state’s existing finances and how to address shortfalls while keeping an eye on various ways to bring about innovation in government.

Illinois’ financial picture is bleak. The state has more than $200 billion of unfunded public employee retirement liabilities, and more than $7 billion in backlogged bills. That bill backlog is accruing interest of up to 12 percent a year. Plus the state budget approved this Spring has already been reported to be more than $1 billion out of balance.

Pritzker said there can only be one governor at a time and he will do what he can to provide input on how to deal with the current budget shortfall headed into the next fiscal year that will begin July 1, 2019.

Asked about tax rates for a proposed progressive tax that would require a change to the state constitution, Pritzker said he’s still listening to all sides and didn’t want to provide any rate structures. All during the campaign while promoting a progressive tax he had refused to provide rates.

He also said he didn’t have any comment about possible cuts to the budget to make up for the shortfall, or to address the pension debt.

Pritzker reiterated his support for legalizing sports betting and recreational marijuana use for adults. As to the possibility of funding infrastructure through a vehicle miles traveled, or VMT, tax, he said he never proposed such a thing, but he said he’s open to all options to find investments for critical infrastructure.

He also said taxpayers shouldn’t be concerned he will give away the store to a union that endorsed his campaign. Pritzker said he will be negotiating on behalf of taxpayers for a fair contract with the union. The largest state employee union, AFSCME, doesn’t have a contract as negotiations with Rauner broke down over nearly 3 years ago and the dispute is mired in court proceedings. Rauner had said AFSCME was asking for more than what taxpayers could afford.

Pritzker said he wants a report from the budget working group before the inauguration in January.

The budget committee includes Hynes, Radogno, state Rep. Greg Harris, D-Chicago, state Senator Toi Hutchinson, D-Olympia Fields, state Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hills, Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara, Decatur Mayor Julie Moore Wolfe, Chicago Treasurer Kurt Summers, Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan Chief of Staff Jessica Basham, Chicago Budget Director Carol Brown, Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois President Pat Devaney, Center for Tax and Budget Accountability Executive Director Ralph Martire, Illinois Federation of Teachers President Dan Montgomery, Civic Federation President Laurence Msall, Illinois Senate President John Cullerton Chief of Staff Kristin Richards, CCM Grosvenor CEO Michael Sacks and Springfield Park District President Leslie Sgro.

Article by Greg Bishop with Illinois News Network. For more INN News visit ILnews.org

Continue Reading

State

Transparency group warns of ‘zombie’ governments

Published

on

A transparency group is using the season to warn about risky practices employed by what the group calls “zombie governments.”

Truth in Accounting has updated information that shows some states, Illinois included, have such large amounts of hidden debt that they’re essentially insolvent. The term “zombie bank” comes from the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s. It was used to describe a bank that was broke but still operating thanks to accounting gimmicks and government support.

Bill Bergman, director of research with Truth in Accounting, said some states and units of local government are effectively insolvent, but able to make themselves appear “alive” using similar accounting tricks.

“We have many of them,” he said. “Especially in Illinois.”

Truth in Accounting qualifies a state as a “zombie” using measurements of taxpayer burden, timeliness of filing financial reports and their trend of doing so, transparency of reports and a 10-year average of debt to revenue.

Bergman said the key is often “hidden debt,” like pension obligations that have not historically been included in financial reports.

These government entities have the incentive to take what money they can and gamble on high-risk, high-return investments, potentially making things worse, Bergman said.

“The riskier asset classes have grown increasingly popular in pension plans including troubled plans in part because of the incentives to take higher risk,” he said.

The most common form of state and local debt is unfunded pensions, to which the state of Illinois has more than $130 billion.

Article by Cole Lauterbach with Illinois News Network. For more INN News visit ILnews.org

Continue Reading

Sponsored Ad

Sponsored

Trending