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Illinois lawmakers attempting to reduce the impact of Janus decision on unions

Illinois lawmakers have crafted a bill designed to make it easier for unions to recruit new members and harder for current members to leave unions, despite the Supreme Court’s Janus decision. According to policy analyst Joe Tabor, here’s what the bill would do:

  • Gives public sector unions the right to meet with new hires for up to one hour during working hours. It does not provide that a new hire can refuse the orientation and prohibits the employer from providing any information that could discourage membership.
  • Requires public employers to provide worker information – including names, home addresses, and any personal email or cell phone numbers the employer might have on file – to the union at least once a month, regardless of the employees’ membership status or preferences.
  • Exempts worker information from Freedom of Information Act requests, making it harder for employees to receive information about opting out of the union, about their rights or from being offered information that balances union views.
  • Allows unions to restrict the window of time that public employees can exercise their rights. As few as 10 days out of every year would be deemed “reasonable” under the bill. The bill allows any dues authorization to be automatically renewed if the employee does not request an end to the deductions within the designated window. These windows are often tied to the date an employee signed their union card, and employees might not even know when their window to stop paying begins or ends.
  • Gives the sole authority for processing requests to stop paying dues to the union itself rather than the employer, who actually processes payroll checks.
  • Attempts to cut off litigation – even pending cases – for workers seeking refunds of money paid to the unions before the Supreme Court ruled the money was unconstitutionally collected. The cases revolve around certain fee payment and informed dues payment consent issues that have arisen in the wake of the Janus case.

The one-hour meeting with new hires is obviously coercive since employees aren’t informed they can say no and the employer isn’t allowed to tell them they can legally decline membership in the union. Also, limiting the ability to opt-out to 10 days a year is absurd, especially when the union is responsible for handling the requests. I’m willing to bet that requests will be deemed too early or too late or ineligible for some other reason, forcing people to keep paying dues for an additional year. Really, this is inviting abuse of people’s right to not fund the union.

As for the litigation about reclaiming past dues, that’s a big issue which Mark Janus, the person whose case was the basis of the Janus decision, told the Chicago Tribune may return to the Supreme Court:

“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.”…

The bill protects unions from being forced to repay dues previously surrendered by workers like Janus.

That’s the second phase of Janus’ court battle — getting about $3,000 in dues returned to him from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31, now that the Supreme Court ruled the taking unconstitutional. “It’s not about the money. It’s about righting the wrongs of the unions,” Janus says.

“We’re prepared to ultimately try to go back to the Supreme Court on this issue,” says Janus attorney Jeffrey Schwab with the Liberty Justice Center. “We think it’s important and doesn’t just affect Mark. It affects everyone in Mark’s position.”

Earlier this month, a federal appeals court ruled that Janus was not entitled to recover that money:

The three-judge panel said AFSCME acted in good faith when it collected the fees from non-members for four decades before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that the fair share fees were unconstitutional.

The Liberty Justice Center, which has provided legal counsel to Janus, said it would appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

AFSCME called the ruling “a significant victory.”

It may be a significant victory but it’s not a final victory until the Supreme Court has weighed in. Illinois isn’t the only state which is passing laws to limit the ability of employers to inform workers about their rights, just the most recent. It’s telling that the left’s best solution to achieving a unionized workforce is to coerce people to join and then attempt to prevent them from leaving.