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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

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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.

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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.

Business

Illinois launches veteran-owned small business logo program

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Finding veteran-owned local businesses will soon be easier.

The Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs is offering a sticker to qualifying veteran-owned businesses. Veteran-owned businesses that are registered with the state, and in good standing, can display the logo in their place of business.

The stickers will be released as part of their annual program that sets aside $300 million in state contracts that only veteran-owned businesses can bid on, Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs spokesman Dave MacDonna said.

“We want to raise public awareness about small businesses that are veteran-owned or large businesses that are veteran-owned,” he said.

MacDonna said that there are many small business owners across the state and this is a way for consumers to have confidence that they’re spending their money with one.

“We want the consumer to realize that they are a trusted and valuable part of the community,” he said.

The program will run in concurrence to the state’s annual Veterans’ Business program, which gives qualified veteran-owned businesses in the state access to more than $300 million in contracts.

For information about the program, visit www2.illinois.gov/cms/business.

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

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State

Duckworth, Durbin Introduce Legislation to Improve Water Quality & End Sewage Dumping into Great Lakes

Staff Contributor

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PRESS RELEASE | U.S. Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) introduced legislation today to end the dumping of untreated sewage waste into the Great Lakes Basin. The Senators’ Great Lakes Water Protection Act would improve water quality in the Great Lakes, which contain 95% of America’s fresh surface water and supply drinking water to more than 30 million people in North America. The bill would also create a dedicated fund to help clean up sewage in the Great Lakes and require the public be immediately notified when sewage is discharged. Representative Dan Lipinski (D-3) has introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

“The Great Lakes is the source of drinking water for tens of millions of Americans and supports 1.5 million jobs,” said Senator Duckworth. “Yet, under the current rules, roughly 22 billion gallons of untreated sewage and storm water are discharged into the Great Lakes each year, threatening the health and livelihoods of millions.  Our legislation will help fix this problem by banning discharges of untreated sewage into the Great Lakes to protect local economies and ensure our water is clean for families in Illinois and throughout the Great Lakes region.” 

“The Great Lakes are precious natural resources and it’s our duty to protect them. In Illinois, we depend on Lake Michigan as a critical source of drinking water for millions of people. Lake Michigan also provides a huge economic benefit to the state, and is a place of recreation for countless residents and tourists,” Senator Durbin said. “This bill will end sewage dumping and ensure we have clean and healthy Great Lakes for future generations of Americans to enjoy.”

“My bill and the legislation Senators Duckworth and Durbin introduced in the Senate will improve water quality in the Great Lakes by ending the practice of blending and making sure that wastewater discharged into the lakes is fully-treated,” added Representative Lipinski. “We are also creating a Great Lakes Cleanup Fund that will provide federal dollars to offset the cost of infrastructure improvements needed to end wastewater blending, and make sure that an undue burden is not placed on local residents.”

An estimated 22 billion gallons of untreated sewage and storm water are discharged into the Great Lakes each year. That’s because inconsistent rules allow sewage treatment facilities in some states to divert wastewater around secondary treatment and discharge the untreated water directly into the Great Lakes when the treatment facilities are overloaded due to heavy storms, wet weather events or power failures, creating a public health hazard. The Senators’ legislation would create a uniform policy across the entire Great Lakes Basin that ends this practice. It would also authorize The Great Lakes Cleanup Fund to provide up to $250 million each year from 2020 to 2024 to support projects that lead to reductions in wastewater blending. 

The Great Lakes Water Protection Act has been endorsed by the Alliance for the Great Lakes, the National Wildlife Federation Great Lakes Regional Center, American Rivers, Environment Illinois, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Environmental Law and Policy Center.

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Education

Illinois educators wary of bill to require metal detectors in every school

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image from the Sentinel-Echo

A group of Illinois lawmakers are promoting legislation that would use a combination of state, local and federal funds to put metal detectors in every school in the state, but some school leaders say it’s simply not feasible.

State Rep. La Shawn Ford, D-Chicago, said students in schools should feel safe from gun violence when they’re learning. For that reason, the former teacher filed a bill that would require all public schools, K-12, have students walk through metal detectors everyday to get to class.

“Why is it that no one gets shot inside of Terminal 1 or Terminal 2 at O’Hare Airport?” he asked.

The bill would tap into federal funds made available this summer to partially pay for the walk-through detectors, which can cost thousands of dollars.

Regional Superintendent Mark Jontry, who oversees schools in DeWitt, Livingston, Logan and McLean Counties, said the idea is well-intentioned, but would result in a unfunded expenses for school districts and create logistical problems.

“Who’s going to be responsible for doing those screenings? Are districts going to be responsible for the cost of hiring additional personnel?” he said. “The concept, on the surface may seem like a good idea, but it presents a number of challenges once you dig into it.”

The detectors would have to be run by a trained professional and need regular servicing and calibration to ensure they work properly. Jontry said such costs would likely fall to local taxpayers.

Ben Schwarm, deputy director with the Illinois Association of School Boards, served on a working group with the Illinois Terrorism Task Force. The law enforcement contingent of the group had a hierarchy of actions that could be taken to “harden” schools from unwanted entry. Schwarm said metal detectors were last on that list.

“It’s just not that effective,” he said. “There’s a thousand things school districts should be doing before they get to that point.”

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

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