Last Friday, a St. Clair County judge ruled that the State should continue to pay unions the fair share membership dues of state workers who opted out of union membership. In February of this year Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner issued an Executive Order which eliminated the fair share fees to unions representing state workers. Fair share is the payment established by law and collective bargaining agreements, that is collected from workers who do not wish to be union members but enjoy many of the benefits of union membership because a union represents and bargains on behalf of those in their same job title. Approximately half of the states in the nation have some form of this law, commonly called “right to work”, including Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin.
The battle is far from over. The St. Clair County judge ordered only an interim payment of fair share fees to unions, which Governor Rauner claims that the state will help recover from the unions for workers once the litigation over his Executive Order has concluded. Yes, he seems very confident about the outcome of that lawsuit and maybe he should be. At the same time that the Governor signed the Executive Order eliminating fair share fees, he filed a pre-emptive “declaratory judgment action” in federal court, asking the court to declare the fair share provisions of the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act (IPLRA) to be unconstitutional, at least as applied to State employees working under the ultimate direction of the Governor. It is interesting to note that a few years back, former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels executed a similar order. In response to a union challenge, the 7th Circuit, which is the same court that may ultimately hear the present case, upheld Daniel’s action as constitutional.
Unions of course argue that the elimination of fair share fees is just another way to get rid of public sector unions by dividing the work place, diluting the union’s power, and allowing employees a free ride by benefiting from union representation without paying for union protection. Businesses, of course, like right to work laws because they mean the possibility of lower costs to doing business.
Meanwhile, in Indiana, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports an increase in union membership since 2013, although Michigan has seen a dip in the same.