AFSCME Illinois leader: Gov. Rauner originated key anti-union lawsuit

SPRINGFIELD, Ill.—A key lawsuit that could toss out “fair share fees” paid to public-sector unions by “free riders” nationwide originally was filed by right-wing virulently anti-union Gov. Bruce Rauner, R-Ill., the leader of the union defending the fees says.

Roberta Lynch, executive director of AFSCME District Council 31, included that fact in her recent op-ed in the Springfield State Journal-Register about corporate financing of the anti-worker nationwide crusade against unions in general and fair share fees in particular.

The Cook County Record, a lawyers’ publication owned by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, confirmed that Rauner originated the lawsuit, and that the current named contender on it, state employee Mark Janus, became the lead foe later.

Rauner recently abandoned the budget basis for his anti-union campaign, too, Lynch said. He told a conservative think tank that he wants to use the court case “to change the culture and power structure in Illinois,” she added.

Janus v AFSCME is the second time the radical right National Right to Work Legal Defense Fund and its business backers have taken a case involving “agency fees” paid by “free riders” all the way to the High Court. Their objective: Financially cripple unions and workers, thus eliminating opposition to the pro-business and right-wing agenda.

Briefs asking the Supreme Court to hear the Janus case are due August 11, and the justices are widely expected to agree to take it. After Associate Justice Antonin Scalia died, the court tied 4-4 on the RTW group’s first “agency fees” case, where a dissenting California teacher opposed that state’s agency fee requirements.

Now that the GOP-run Senate confirmed GOP President Donald Trump’s nomination of conservative Republican Neil Gorsuch to fill Scalia’s seat, the RTW crowd is trying again.

“Attacking the freedom of working people to come together is exactly what the Janus v AFSCME lawsuit is all about,” Lynch wrote.

“Although fronted by a lone state employee, the case is bankrolled by the National Right to Work Foundation and the Liberty Justice Center, the litigation wing of the Illinois Policy Institute,” Lynch explained. The two groups are “part of a network funded by billionaires and corporate CEOs who use their massive fortunes to tilt the playing field in their favor.

“Now these forces want the highest court in the land to take away the freedom of average Americans to come together to achieve things our families need, like a living wage, retirement security, affordable health care and the ability to care for loved ones,” Lynch said.

They would do so by depriving unions of money, by making millions of state and local workers nationwide automatic “free riders,” killing a 40-year-old ruling for fair share fees.

As in the California case, the Cook County Record pointed out the RTW attorneys and Janus deliberately told lower district court and appeals court judges that they expected and wanted to lose, so they could appeal the rulings to the High Court.  They argue that state laws that tell union-covered “free riders” that they must pay “fair share” fees to cover bargaining and grievance costs violate the dissenting workers’ free speech rights.

“Union members know we only make progress when we come together, not just for ourselves but to improve the lives of all,” Lynch said. “Real freedom is about more than making a living. It’s also about being able to see the doctor, attend a parent-teacher conference and volunteer in the community. The wealthy corporate special interests behind this case want to undermine that freedom. They want to take away the power in numbers that working people need to win better lives for ourselves, our families and our communities.”

Source: PAI