Illinois Union Case Awaits U.S. Supreme Court to Weigh In

Three Illinois workers and two public worker unions waited for the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on a carbon copy of their union-fee dispute. The case they were waiting on from the Supreme Court was Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. Because of the death of Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonin G. Scalia, there was 4-4 split on the issue of whether mandatory payment of union fees for nonmember public workers is a First Amendment violation.

Because of the spit decision,  the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals ruling in Friedrichs stands, but does not create a national precedent.

“Our case is in a strong position to be the next case on this topic that the Supreme Court takes up,” said attorney Jacob H. Huebert of the Liberty Justice Center, which represents the three plaintiff workers challenging whether union fees should be paid for nonmembers.

With the split decision in the Friedrichs case, the fee requirement is intact. It also reverts the question back to the controlling Supreme Court precedent on the topic, the 1977 decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, which validated the union fees.

Those on the side of replacing Justice Scalia with another conservative justice believed that would lead to the overturning of the Abood decision. Presently, the Illinois case is set for status in July 2016 and is in a paused status to allow the Friedrichs appeal to play out.

The ruling on the case’s merits could come on or before that July date and an appeal to the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals could take between 6 months to a year to play out from there.

The lawsuit was started by Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner but is being brought nominally by the three state workers. It was ruled last year that Rauner had no standing to bring the lawsuit and thus was removed as a party plaintiff. The workers argued that sections of the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act that authorizes compulsory fees for nonmembers are a First Amendment violation because they subsidized union political activity.

Along with AFSCME, the lawsuit named the Teamsters/Professional and Technical Employees Local Union as a defendant, stating that the union charges nonmembers 79% and 98% respectively, of what they would charge for members.

In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court cast doubt on the fees in another Illinois case, Harris v. Quinn a 4-4 decision, which called the majority decision in Abood “questionable on several grounds.”

The attorney representing AFSCME said that the Abood decision was an affirmation of a basic principle, that if a person benefits from something, they have to contribute to that benefit.

This and many other closely watched decisions in the U.S. Supreme Court may be stalled because of the current makeup of the court. There are essentially 4 conservative leaning justices and 4 liberal leaning justices; in many cases, the vote by the high judges will be split 4 to 4, which means that there would be no U.S. Supreme Court decision and thus the lower court’s finding would hold.

President Obama has nominated Illinois native Merrick Garland, but the Republican-controlled Senate has stated over and over again that it will never consider the nomination of a new Supreme Court justice until after a new president is elected in November and sworn in in January 2017.

Mark Janus, et al. v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Council 31, ASL-CIO, et al., 15-cv-01235.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling corporate and partnership cases, business litigation, probate litigation and catastrophic injury cases for individuals, families and businesses for more than 40 years, in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas including, Blue Island, Calumet City, Oak Lawn, Hickory Hills, LaGrange, Western Springs, Darien, Lemont, Chicago (Albany Park, Andersonville, Lakeview, Lakewood Balmoral, Wrigleyville, Hyde Park, Edgebrook, Chinatown, Beverly, Austin, Little Italy, Pill Hill, Old Town Triangle, Pulaski Park, Printer’s Row, Sauganash, Sheffield), Joliet, Lake Forest, Park Ridge, Round Lake and Cicero, Ill.

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