Rauner's federal fair share fee suit vs unions dismissed, but non-union workers cleared to continue litigation

By Jonathan Bilyk | May 20, 2015

Three Illinois state employees added to a lawsuit brought by Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner challenging the legality of so-called “fair share” fees paid to public employee unions have been cleared by a federal judge to proceed with their litigation against the unions.

Rauner, however, lacks the standing to remain an official party to the lawsuit, the judge said.

Tuesday, May 19, U.S. District Judge Robert W. Gettleman dismissed Rauner’s action against the state worker unions, which included the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 31 and the AFL-CIO.

“In the instant case, the governor has no personal interest at stake,” Gettleman wrote in his opinion, released late Tuesday. “In effect, he seeks to represent the non-member employees subject to the fair share provisions of the collective bargaining agreements. He has no standing to do so. They must do it on their own.”

And those employees, Gettleman said, have the right to proceed with the action under legal precedent, even though the governor’s original complaint, to which they were added after Rauner filed it, has been dismissed.

“The employees’ proposed complaint in intervention asserts an independent basis for the court’s jurisdiction,” Gettleman said. “They undoubtedly have standing to assert their claims because they are required … to pay fair share fees.

“Therefore, in the interest of judicial economy, the court grants leave for the employees to file their complaint in intervention and treats it as the operative pleading, while simultaneously dismissing the governor’s original complaint.”

The decision comes about three-and-a-half months since Rauner moved in early February, soon after he took office, to stop the fair share fees from being taken from the paychecks of state workers, and filing his action in federal court to have the fees declared unconstitutional.

The fees are deducted from the paychecks of state workers who don’t pay regular union dues. Unions say the fees are needed to offset the costs unions incur for collective bargaining, which the unions claim benefit all employees, whether they are officially part of the union or not.

The governor, however, argued U.S. Supreme Court opinions indicate the fair share fees violate the constitutional free speech and association rights of those who don’t wish to join a union. While the unions are not permitted to use the fair share fees to fund explicitly political activities, the governor’s office argued the work of a public worker union cannot be dissociated from the union’s political dealings, since the union deals with lawmakers and other government officials as a matter of course.

In all, Rauner said 6,582 of the state’s 46,573 employees, or about one in seven, opt to make fair share payments, rather than pay union dues. Rauner has noted some fair share fees for certain employees amount to as much as 99 percent of the dues paid by similar workers who joined a union.

The unions and Attorney General Lisa Madigan have opposed Rauner’s legal actions, asking the court to dismiss Rauner’s suit for lack of standing.

Unions have also sued Rauner in St. Clair County, calling the governor’s action to halt the collection of fair share fees “patently illegal” and “outside (his) authority under the Illinois Constitution.” Rauner has submitted a counterclaim, and that case remains pending in St. Clair County Circuit Court.

In Chicago’s federal court, however, Rauner moved within the allowed timeframe to address the standing issue and shore up the suit, adding three non-union fair share fee-paying employees, Mark Janus, Marie Quigley and Brian Trygg, to the litigation as plaintiffs.

Gettleman said those employees will be allowed to continue with their litigation.

The judge said the unions have until June 10 to answer the non-union employees’ fair share litigation.

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American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Council 31

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