Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger, recently appointed by Gov. Bruce Rauner, won’t abide by his executive order setting aside “fair share” union fees without a court order.
On Monday, Rauner signed an executive order regarding union fees, saying its aim was to allow state workers to avoid paying so-called “fair-share” fees if they had opted out of joining a union.
Munger’s office raised the question of whether it’s constitutional to withhold those fees and place them in an escrow account as Rauner had ordered.
The governor’s executive order does not apply to other constitutional officers, according to Illinois Attorney General office chief of staff Ann Spillane.
“There’s no question that under the current law that fair share fees
are constitutional,” Spillane told the Sun-Times. “(Leslie Munger) can’t ignore validly-signed contracts. She is an independent constitutional officer, an executive order doesn’t change her conduct.”
Munger is charged with enforcing state statute and collective bargaining agreements unless or until a court order says otherwise, the Illinois Attorney General’s Office said.
Expecting a legal challenge, the governor’s office filed papers in the U.S. Northern District of Illinois on Monday seeking a declaratory judgment to affirm that his actions were constitutional.
Rauner used an in-house counsel — Dennis Murashko — to file the legal action, but said he has tapped former U.S. Attorney Dan Webb and Webb’s Winston & Strawn law firm to fight the court battle. Webb is doing the work for free.
Murashko on Monday was deputized as a Special Assistant Attorney General to file the lawsuit. While Murashko is one of Rauner’s in-house attorneys, he is being paid from Central Management Services, according to state records.
A governor’s spokesperson did not comment.
“Fair share” fees are paid by workers who do not belong to a union but are in a job covered by a collective-bargaining agreement. The payments are intended to be used to reimburse the union for the costs of collective bargaining but cannot be used for any of the union’s political activities. Unions say that employees who don’t have to join a union or pay dues still should help pay their “fair share” of the union’s costs if they benefit from being covered by a union contract.
The Illinois Federation of Teachers were quick to weigh in on Friday following the report, which first appeared in Capitol Fax.
“As we said earlier this week, the Governor’s actions were a blatantly illegal abuse of his power, so we’re glad to see a bipartisan confirmation that the constitution still matters. A democracy does not allow one man to implement his ideological will as he chooses, and so Comptroller Munger and Attorney General Madigan rightfully put the law over politics,” the IFT statement says. “As he considers his upcoming budget plan, the Governor would be wise to do the same. Our state has serious financial challenges, and Governor Rauner’s out-of-touch, partisan attacks on middle class families and the unions who give them a collective voice isn’t the way to solve them. Let’s hope we can start working together in earnest next week.”