Saying governments are different from labor unions and other private organizations, a north suburban village and an organization that lobbies on behalf of Illinois city and village governments has asked a federal judge to dismiss a union-backed lawsuit asserting the rights of union members are violated by local governments which use tax money to fund lobbyists to seek reforms opposed by unions.
On Aug. 3, attorneys for the village of Lincolnshire and the Illinois Municipal League filed a joint motion to dismiss the legal action brought against them by two union members and two local labor unions, the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 and the Chicago Regional Council of Carpenters.
In the motion, Lincolnshire and the IML assert the village has the right under the First Amendment to speech, expressed by the decision to join any association its elected representatives believe is proper, including the IML. If residents of the village don’t agree with the decision, they are also free to speak against it, and to seek to vote out the politicians it believes has harmed the village and worked against their interests.
“Each Village resident or taxpayer cannot have a veto over the Village’s exercise of its First Amendment right to associate with these groups,” the village and IML wrote in their motion. “So holding would put this Court in a position to monitor local governmental action and substitute its judgment for that of the locally elected Village officials. Clearly this not the proper resolution of Plaintiffs’ complaints.
Lorilea Buerkett Brown Hay & Stephens
“Rather, those residents who believe the Village’s election to join the IML, which allegedly harms their personal interests, may make their positions clear at the ballot box and work to elect trustees or a mayor who will reflect their ‘electoral mandate’ and end the Village’s membership in the IML.”
The union members, including named plaintiffs Dixon O’Brien and John Cook, filed suit in February in Chicago federal court, asking a judge to order Lincolnshire to no longer pay its membership dues to the Illinois Municipal League, a lobbying organization representing cities and municipal governments across the state, contending the village’s use of money paid by taxpayers, including union members, violates the First and 14th Amendment rights of taxpayers opposed to the IML’s political goals.
That lawsuit came as the Supreme Court was preparing to hear arguments in the case docketed as Janus v the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. In that lawsuit, the plaintiff, Illinois state worker Mark Janus, backed by the National Right to Work Legal Foundation, of Springfield, Va., and the Chicago-based Liberty Justice Center, asked the court to find unconstitutional state rules requiring non-union workers to pay so-called “fair share” fees to labor unions, ostensibly to compensate the unions for costs incurred representing the non-union workers during contract talks.
Janus prevailed, as the Supreme Court decided 5-4 to strike down the precedent set under the high court’s 1977 decision in Abood v Detroit Board of Education, allowing the collection of those fees. The majority found the mandatory fees violated the speech rights of non-union workers, by forcing them to associate with a private organization – in this case, labor unions – whose political speech and activities the non-union workers may oppose.
In the lawsuit against Lincolnshire, the union plaintiffs assert the same principle should apply when paying taxes to a local government, like the village of Lincolnshire, when that government may use those tax dollars to fund advocacy groups, like the IML, whose activities certain taxpayers may oppose.
In their lawsuit, the union members assert their rights and those of other union members in Lincolnshire were violated by the village’s payment of dues to the IML, which in 2015 had lobbied local governments to support Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner’s so-called “Turnaround Agenda,” a package of reforms to labor and wage laws, workers compensation rules and collective bargaining rules, among others, described by opponents as “anti-union.”
In the lawsuit, O’Brien asserted he had asked Lincolnshire to refund the “portion of his tax money that funded lobbying and other political activities, including but not limited to his share of dues paid to the IML.”
In response, Lincolnshire and the IML asked the court to toss the lawsuit, asserting the unions and their members can’t show how they were injured by the village’s involvement with the IML or how the union members have been deprived of a remedy or right available to other taxpayers.
Further, the village and IML said the issues raised in the Janus case are quite different from those raised by the unions in this action, noting unions are private organizations, while the village is a public organization answerable to voters, and the IML is a public organization whose speech is dictated by its member local governments from throughout Illinois.
“The harm suffered by Janus is not the same as the harm alleged by Plaintiffs, which is general harm shared with all taxpayers who reside in one of the 1,260 Illinois municipalities that are members of the IML,” the village and IML wrote. “Janus, on the other hand, was not paying taxes to a public body for government speech. Rather, he was compelled to pay an agency fee to a union, a private entity, to which he did not want to belong and with which he disagreed regarding its private speech.
“Janus is not relevant to the instant case.”
Lincolnshire and the IML are represented in the case by attorneys Lorilea Buerkett and Daniel L. Hamilton, of the firm of Brown Hay & Stephens LLP, of Springfield, and Thomas G. DiCianni and Adam B. Simon, of the firm of Ancel Glink Diamond Bush DiCianni & Krafthefer P.C., of Chicago and Vernon Hills.
The union plaintiffs are represented by Countryside-based Local 150 staff attorneys Dale D. Pierson, Kenneth Edwards, James Connolly Jr. and Robert Paszta; attorneys Marc R. Poulos, Kara M. Principe and Joseph Sweeney, of the Indiana Illinois Iowa Foundation for Fair Contracting; Kenneth D. Lamb, of Corboy & Demetrio P.C., of Chicago; and Terrance B. McGann and Karen M. Rioux, of the firm of McGann Ketterman & Rioux, of Chicago.