Illinois has a new Republican governor now and Bruce Rauner isn’t wasting any time in putting some changes in place. Following the lead of his neighbor in Wisconsin, Scott Walker, Rauner announced some executive actions which are sure to have the unions in an uproar… and probably in court before too long.
In his state of the state speech last week, the newly elected Republican governor of Illinois, Bruce Rauner, called on his state’s local communities to pass right-to-work ordinances to improve their economic competitiveness — aware, presumably, that there is no way the deep-blue Illinois legislature is going to approve such a law across the state.
But he’s got more tricks up his sleeve, including a daring one he uncorked yesterday: He issued an executive order declaring, based on the logic of a 2014 Supreme Court case, that state employees who don’t want to join a union don’t have to pay anything to the union that represents them.
The move, preventing the state from compelling the payment of so-called “fair-share fees,” could substantially weaken the unions that have put the state in such dire budgetary straits.
The hilariously named “fair share fees” (which are also known as “agency fees”) are a typical way that unions get around the pesky problem of having workers in their state who don’t care to support their political agenda. If the workers don’t wish to pay dues, the state just extracts the “fee” from their paycheck and gives it to the unions anyway. Last year the Supreme Court ruled against such involuntary fee collection in certain circumstances in Harris v. Quinn. Rauner is basing his action on that ruling, but expanding it considerably.
Anticipating that the unions would go to court, the Governor beat them to the punch and filed his own action at the same time.
Rauner immediately filed a preemptive legal case opposing the likely union pushback, so the legal debate can begin in earnest. If he wins or a California case under similar logic wins at the Supreme Court, he’s won an important victory for Illinois, quite legally, without even going through the legislature — while weakening unions in a number of other states, too. If he fails, it’s definitely a loss for conservative legal efforts to weaken unions’ special privileges.
For the time being, workers aren’t getting any immediate relief in their paychecks. The ones who opt out of the unions will still have the fees deducted, but until the case makes its way through the courts the money will go into escrow. If Rauner loses, the money will go to the unions, but if he pulls this off it will be returned to the workers with interest.
There are several new GOP governors around the nation this year. I wonder how many of them are watching this and considering a similar plan?