Last year’s Supreme Court ruling in a home health case is being cited by Gov. Bruce Rauner (R) as the legal justification for a move that would potentially weaken union organizing in Illinois.
Rauner issued an executive order Monday that would exempt state workers who don’t want to join a union from paying fees that support collective bargaining.
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Harris v. Quinn that Illinois home care workers who provide personal assistant care services are exempt from having to join and pay union dues. Now, Rauner is seeking to extend the exemption to all state workers.
“What Rauner is trying to do the Supreme Court did to us in a more limited fashion last year,” James Muhammad, communications director for SEIU Healthcare in the region, tells HHCN. “This is a broader swipe at organized workers attempting to have a voice in the work place.”
Muhammad’s organization — SEIU Healthcare Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Kansas — represents more than 50,000 home care workers, as well as nursing home and other healthcare employees.
Rauner filed a pre-emptive federal lawsuit in Chicago seeking to have his decision declared legal, according to media reports. He took that action in anticipation of a strong pushback from organized labor.
“The move likely will spark additional court battles as unions quickly decried the effort as an illegal abuse of power,” the Chicago Tribune reports, noting that it is also possible Democratic lawmakers could vote to overturn Rauner’s executive order.
Unions say the move is an attempt to dismantle their bargaining power.
Under state law, employees can decline to join a union but are still required to pay “fair share” fees related to collective bargaining and contract negotiations.
“The idea is that if all employees are getting the benefits from a new contract, everyone should contribute to the cost,” says the Tribune.
Rauner argues that while Illinois statute prohibits those fees from being used to support political activity, funds are often used for that purpose.
“The governor tries to paint a picture of unions that is inaccurate,” Muhammad counters. “Unions are working people — people that live next door to you. They’re not corporate bosses.”
Muhammad admits his union “took a knock” following the Harris v. Quinn case, but added the organization continues to gain memberships.
Written by Cassandra Dowell