The recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling ending forced union fees from government employees could hurt the pocket books of Democratic candidates.
Agency fees were at the center of the Illinois case Janus v. AFSCME. Government employees were forced to pay agency fees to the unions to cover the cost of collective bargaining, even if they opposed the union. Unions say the case was meant to weaken their political power by encouraging government employees to be free riders rather than full dues paying members.
In Illinois, Central Management Services said the average employee who paid only agency fees to the union paid around $61 a month while full union members paid an additional $14 a month. Unions contend their political action committees were from the smaller full dues portion, not the larger agency fee portion.
In the 2016 election cycle, OpenSecrets.org reported two major public sector union political actions committees, SEIU and American Federation of Teachers, gave more than $70 million to candidates across the country, mostly to Democrats. Add in contributions from the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees’ and it’s over $85 million, nearly all going to Democrats.
National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix said the majority opinion in the Illinois case Janus v. AFSCME from the nation’s high court practically said everything a union does is political and government workers shouldn't be forced to fund them.
“It’s all political,” Mix said of even collective bargaining in the public sector. “You’re redressing government. You’re trying to convince them how to allocate resources and therefore all this speech, the entirety of it is political in nature and therefore can’t be compelled under the First Amendment.”
Illinois Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker said that’s not the case.
“Collective bargaining is not political,” Pritzker said after last month’s Supreme Court ruling. “It’s just giving working people a fair chance to sit down across the table from management to get a fair wage.”
Pritzker blasted incumbent Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner for failing to come to terms on a new contract with AFSCME Council 31.
“How about just having a governor that’s willing to sit down and negotiate fairly,” Pritzker said.
AFSCME hasn’t had a new contract with the state for Rauner’s entire term. Whether the two are at impasse as the Illinois Labor Relations Board has determined will most likely be up to the Illinois Supreme Court after an appeals court makes a determination. That may come after the November election.
Rauner cheered last week’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Janus case as a victory for workers’ free speech. He also said the ruling is a win for taxpayers.
“Taxpayers for too long in Illinois have born the unfair excessive costs of the conflict of interest between what government union leaders do with politicians that they help elect,” Rauner said. “That’s a corrupt bargain that really needs to be stood up against.”
AFSCME has endorsed Pritzker and regularly lambasted Rauner in publications to its members.
Both Rauner and Pritzker are independently wealthy and expected to spend their own money in what could be the most expensive race of its kind in the nation's history.
In Illinois, for the first quarter of 2018 AFSCME gave out over $355,000 to various candidates, according to records from the Illinois State Board of Elections. While several Illinois Republicans do get AFSCME money, like state Rep. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, who got a $3,000 donation back in February, the union tends to give more to Democrats like $10,000 to state Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, $25,000 to state Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, and $52,000 to state Rep. Christian Mitchell, D-Chicago.