Apparently, when it comes to the game of issuing executive orders, both parties can play.

Monday night, just in time for the 6 o’clock news, newly minted Republican Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner announced that he will use his pen and his phone to put an end to a requirement forcing all Illinois state workers to pay dues to the Illinois government employees union. The move, which Rauner takes in open defiance of a heavily Democratic state Legislature, will cut off the spigot Illinois’ public-sector unions use to fund Democratic candidates without having to encounter the people who receive their hefty checks.

Gov. Bruce Rauner, the newly elected Republican who has often criticized public sector unions, took his first step toward curbing their power on Monday by announcing an executive order that would bar unions from requiring all state workers to pay the equivalent of dues.

Mr. Rauner, who faces a Democratic-controlled legislature with strong ties to labor, took the unilateral step saying that he believed those fees violate the United States Constitution.

“Forced union dues are a critical cog in the corrupt bargain that is crushing taxpayers,” Mr. Rauner said. “An employee who is forced to pay unfair share dues is being forced to fund political activity with which they disagree. That is a clear violation of First Amendment rights — and something that, as governor, I am duty bound to correct.”

The move will affect about 6,500 state workers, but won’t have any effect on those who choose to be in unions. The ones who choose not to be in unions will no longer be forced to pay what unions call “fair share” contributions, which the unions claim compensates them for having to advocate on behalf of “free riders” who use the union’s contract negotiations services, and which can run workers up to $1,000 per year.

Of course, that claim assumes that the state’s unions use what they collect from the state’s workers to actually negotiate contracts. In Illinois, Department of Labor filings tell a different story. All three of the state’s main public sector employee unions spend less than half the revenue they collect on actual representation (and that includes more than just contract negotiations).

For every dollar the Illinois Education Association, or IEA, spent, only 28 cents went to representation. For the Illinois Federation of Teachers , or IFT, that figure was 43 cents, and the state Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, Leadership Council spent only 23 cents out of every dollar on representation. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31 was less bad than the rest, but barely half of its spending was on representation – 51 cents out of an average dollar.

So, of course, you’re probably wondering where the rest of the money goes. That part is easy. Illinois unions spend an exorbitant amount on overhead — IEA alone spends two-thirds of what it collects on administration — and making political contributions. In the case of SEIU, 44 percent of their revenue intake went back in to politics. And according to the Illinois Policy Institute link referenced above, that share assumes their contributions to non-profits were non-political and, of course, they weren’t. Taking all donations to politically or ideologically oriented non-profits into account, as well as donations made to non-profits allied with the union itself, IPI found that a whopping 71 percent of every dollar SEIU takes from Illinois employees goes to politics. 

Rauner argues these forced contributions are unconstitutional, and he may be right. The SCOTUS case, Communication Workers v. Beck, found that employees could, in fact, opt out of the portion of their union dues that go toward political activity, though the term “political activity” is very narrowly defined. In this case, the contributions aren’t technically defined as union dues, either — they’re considered “contributions” for services rendered — so Rauner may still find his idea tied up in litigation. Actually, given the makeup of the Illinois Legislature and how much that money means to some very key re-election campaigns, he can probably bet on it. But for now, it’s nice to enjoy the reverberations from the unions’ abject terror.

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