This editorial first appeared November 25, 2019 in the Chicago Tribune.
Since June 27, 2018, when the U.S. Supreme Court limited the ability of public employees unions to collect mandatory dues, Mark Janus has been traveling the country on an information campaign.
Janus is the Springfield plaintiff who worked as a child support specialist for the state of Illinois. He declined to join the union when he was hired in 2007, but he still had to pay partial dues. The Supreme Court ruled in his favor last summer, deciding in a 5-4 opinion that mandatory dues collection from nonunion members violated their constitutional rights. Employees still are free to join unions and pay dues. But the justices said those who don’t want to do so cannot be required to “subsidize the speech of other private speakers.”
“States and public-sector unions may no longer extract agency fees from nonconsenting employees,” Justice Samuel Alito Jr. wrote for the majority. “This procedure violates the First Amendment and cannot continue.”
Since then, union-heavy states have been enacting laws to weaken the impact of the Janus decision. Which state probably is next to have such a law? You guessed it. Illinois.
Lawmakers during the fall veto session sent to Gov. J.B. Pritzker legislation that would make it easier for unions to recruit members and harder for employees to know their rights under Janus. Public employers — mostly governments — would be required to provide the names, addresses and contact information of their employees, including personal email addresses and cellphone numbers on file, directly to union bargaining units.
The legislation also severely limits the ability of employers to inform their workers about the choice to join a union or not.
“The Janus decision was about empowering individuals to make a choice of what’s right for them,” Janus told us Thursday. “It puts people in charge of their membership, not politicians or a union steward. If the governor signs the bill, he’s going to keep people in the dark.”
For workers who don’t want to join a union, the window to opt out would be shortened under the measure. And the bill protects unions from being forced to repay dues previously surrendered by workers like Janus.