One of the strong narratives emerging from the 2016 presidential election was how out-of-step the nation’s labor union leaders were with their members’ politics. Blue-collar workers voted for Trump while the union bosses backed Hillary with their members’ dues.
That schism is apparent in lawsuits by union members in California and Illinois, challenging state laws that forced them to pay union dues in order to hold government jobs. The government workers are saying their First Amendment free speech rights are violated when they are forced to put money behind political ideas that they do not share.
The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday said it will hear the Illinois state worker’s case that could end forced unionization for 5.5 million government workers in Illinois and 21 other states without right-to-work laws. Mark Janus, a child support specialist for the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, is suing over payroll deductions that support the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
The California lawsuit ended in a 4-4 split among the Supremes while conservative Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat was vacant. With his replacement by conservative Neil Gorsuch, the vote on the Illinois lawsuit could easily be 5-4 to end forced unionization.
The union argument for 40 years has been that government workers benefit from collective bargaining and unions are entitled to compensation.
But in our very blue state, surrounded by right-to-work states, the public employee unions bargained for the nation’s highest state worker salaries: $63,660 median salary compared to $32,206 for the rest of us in Illinois. They bargained for those salaries with a power structure they financed and that has distilling one-party rule into one-man rule by Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan.
Janus versus AFSCME at a minimum could seriously change the public employment outlook in Illinois and its burden to taxpayers. The greater hope is that it starts a major power shift reversing the young worker exodus and giving Illinois the business climate that can even hope to attract Amazon’s HQ2 or other big employers that now follow young workers to the places they choose to live.
The only ones now opting for Illinois are those already here with no real option for leaving.