Billionaire Gov. Bruce Rauner Declares War on Illinois State Unions Through Executive Order

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Billionaire Gov. Bruce Rauner Declares War on Illinois State Unions Through Executive Order

One labor leader called the move a "blatantly illegal abuse of power." (Photo: Pat Quinn for Illinois / Flickr)

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner launched the first of his promised attacks on the state’s labor unions on Monday with an executive order intended to end the legal requirement for Illinois state workers who are not members of unions to pay agency or “fair share” fees to cover the costs to the union of bargaining on their behalf. The action is a shot across the bow by a governor who clearly intends to go to war with organized labor in Illinois.

Currently, all unionized state employees must pay an agency fee. According to the governor, 6,500 workers are now paying this fee—what he dubs an “unfair share”—to one of the several unions representing a significant share of the state’s workforce, which numbers almost 78,000. Until the courts rule on his executive order, Rauner said the dues of the 6,500 will be held in escrow.

Anti-union strategists obviously hope that more workers will choose to forego paying dues if they can, but some unions, including the largest public sector union in the state, AFSCME Council 31 (American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees), say they have already started an escalated plan of internal organizing to strengthen support for the union and worker solidarity.

“Bruce Rauner’s scheme to strip the rights of state workers and weaken their unions by executive order is a blatantly illegal abuse of power,” AFSCME Council 31 director Roberta Lynch said. “Perhaps as a private equity CEO Rauner was accustomed to ignoring legal and ethical standards, but Illinois is still a democracy and its laws have meaning. … Our union and all organized labor will stand together with those who believe in democracy to overturn Bruce Rauner’s illegal action and restore the integrity of the rule of law.”

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David Moberg

David Moberg, a senior editor of In These Times, has been on the staff of the magazine since it began publishing in 1976. Before joining In These Times, he completed his work for a Ph.D. in anthropology at the University of Chicago and worked for Newsweek. He has received fellowships from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Nation Institute for research on the new global economy. He can be reached at davidmoberg@inthesetimes.com.

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