Illinois Supreme Court Rejects Rauner Appeal on Steps

AFSCME has won another round in the battle for payment of step increases that Gov. Rauner has illegally frozen since July 1, 2015.

When bargaining for a new state contract got underway in 2015, the law required that current conditions of employment remain in place—including movement through the state’s pay plan schedule. But Rauner ignored that requirement and acted unilaterally to impose a freeze on employee step increases.

AFSCME challenged that action in appellate court—and we won. Last November the 5th District Appellate Court ruled that the Rauner Administration violated the law when it refused to continue paying step increases after the expiration date of the union contract. The court found that employees are owed step increases and remanded the case back to the Illinois Labor Relations Board (ILRB) for a remedy.

That ruling was put on hold when the Rauner Administration filed a petition for leave to appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court.

Yesterday the Supreme Court denied the Rauner Administration’s petition for leave to appeal. So the decision of the 5th District Appellate Court that the steps are owed stands and no further appeal is possible.

Now, pursuant to the appellate court’s order, the case will be remanded to the Labor Board to devise a remedy. Rauner has claimed that the state cannot afford to pay the step increases and may even try to influence the Labor Board’s final order in that regard.

AFSCME will urge the Board to act swiftly to ensure that all state employees receive the step increases they are owed and deserve.

In Janus v. AFSCME Council 31, Rauner and IPI pulling strings

Is Mark Janus just some lone state of Illinois employee who woke up one morning and decided it violated his free speech rights to pay union fair share fees because he objects to collective bargaining agreements that include pay raises?
If you said “highly unlikely,” you’d be right on target. Yet that’s the bunch of malarkey that the Liberty Justice Center, legal arm of the Illinois Policy Institute (IPI), is trying to sell to the media and, more importantly, to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Click here to watch a video message from Council 31 Executive Director Roberta Lynch about the Janus case now before the Supreme Court.

In fact, Mark Janus has been a union-represented employee for years, yet he has never once filed any objections to paying fair share fees as the law allows him to do. He hasn’t come to a union meeting to argue against the union’s efforts to raise employee pay or improve benefits. Nor has he ever refused to accept the raises and benefits that the union negotiated.

The truth is Mark Janus is a front man, first and foremost for Bruce Rauner. Rauner was the original plaintiff in this case—and he still refers to it as “my” case and calls it the “biggest thing” he’s ever done. When the court refused to allow the case to proceed with Rauner as the plaintiff, the IPI scurried around and found exactly ONE state employee who was willing to serve as Rauner’s surrogate.

It is already the case that, pursuant to a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 1977 (Abood), fair share fees cannot be used toward any form of political activity (e.g. contributions to candidates, campaign literature, etc.). In fact, the amount of the fee is determined by a rigorous calculation that excludes any union expenditure for such activity.

The issue before the court in Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 is the claim made by the forces behind this lawsuit, Rauner, the IPI, and the National Right-To-Work Committee, that ANYTHING that a union representing public employees does—any effort to improve safety in the workplace, to provide affordable health insurance, to ensure fair wages, to restrict excessive overtime, or to otherwise improve workers’ lives on the job—is “political” and thus a violation of Mark Janus’ free speech rights.

What they are after in making such a bizarre claim is to take away the freedom of every public employee in the country—child protection workers, teachers, correctional officers, firefighters, nurses, librarians, and so many more—to come together in a strong union to improve their lives.

The State Policy Network, to which the Illinois Policy Institute belongs, put it very clearly in a recent fundraising mailing. They believe if they can prevail in the Janus case they will be able to strike a “mortal blow” against all public employee unions—to “defund and defang” unions in our country.

Are you getting the picture? They want a labor movement that is as toothless as an old dog—not one that can fight on every front to improve workers’ lives.

If the Supreme Court decides this case on the precedent and the merits, then AFSCME will surely win. But unfortunately, the majority on the court may rely more on politics than jurisprudence in reaching its conclusions. And if the court does declare union fair share fees unconstitutional, then you can be sure that Rauner and his cronies at the Illinois Policy Institute will soon be filling up our mailboxes, ringing our phones, even banging on our doors trying to convince us to drop out of the union.

You can resist Rauner’s scheme to weaken our union by making sure you are a full member of the union today and committing to remain a member by signing an AFSCME Strong card.

Back Pay Appropriation Bills Assigned to Committee in House and Senate

AFSCME is pressing for passage of legislation to fund back pay owed to thousands of state employees since a pay raise was withheld in 2011.

The Illinois Supreme Court has already ruled that the money is owed, but that it cannot be paid without a legislative appropriation.

Sen. Andy Manar (D-Macoupin) is the chief sponsor of the Senate appropriation bill, SB 2269. A companion bill, HB 4290, has been introduced in the House of Representatives by Rep. Jerry Costello (D-Randolph).

The bills have now begun moving through the legislative process, with each assigned to committee in its respective house. SB 2269 has been assigned to the Senate Appropriations II Committee, of which Sen. Manar is the Chair. HB 4290 has been assigned to the House Executive Committee, of which Rep. Dan Burke is the Chair.

Council 31 lobbyists have been reaching out to remind all legislators that this back pay is the state’s oldest debt and the time to pay it is now. As a result of their efforts, more than 20 senators have signed on as cosponsors of SB 2269 and more than 40 state representatives have signed on as cosponsors of HB 4290.

You can click here to see if your legislators have signed on as cosponsors. Just fill in the bill number in the “search” column on the left of the page. And be sure to call your state senator and/or representative if they haven’t yet signed on as cosponsors through the AFSCME legislative hotline at 888-912-5959 or use our click-to-call tool.

This will undoubtedly be another year of budget battles without sufficient revenues to meet the state’s needs. So it won’t be easy to win passage of the back pay appropriation. We’ve got to make sure that legislators know that state employees deserve to be paid the money owed to them.

Getting Ready for November!

The Primary Election is over—and AFSCME-backed candidates had a great day. Now it’s time to get serious about defeating Bruce Rauner in November.

Throughout the primary season Rauner demonstrated the ruthlessness and truth-lessness that state employees have come to know all too well. He told what the media widely reported as “big lies” about his Republican primary opponent; ramped up his fierce assaults on House Speaker Michael Madigan because Madigan refused to go along with his anti-union agenda in the General Assembly; and threatened to “blow up” Democratic gubernatorial candidate, JB Pritzker.

In other words, Rauner’s made it clear that he will do anything to win re-election so that he can pursue his goal of wiping out public employee unions and driving down the wages and benefits of public employees in our state.

If we want to defeat him, we have to start now to build an army of volunteers who are prepared to reach out to every voter in the state of Illinois.

Even if you’ve never before gotten involved in a political campaign, this is a fight that you cannot sit out. With a little bit of training and a lot of determination, every one of us can make a contribution—making phone calls, knocking on doors, speaking at community meetings, sending out texts to friends and family. If we all stand together and fight back, we can make sure that Rauner will not have the opportunity to do further damage to our state or its public servants.

Courtesy of AFSCME Council 31