- Associated Press - Friday, March 6, 2015

CHICAGO (AP) - Illinois labor unions are trying to keep Gov. Bruce Rauner’s lawsuit over nonmember dues from potentially curbing union power nationwide.

Unions filed a motion late Thursday to dismiss the federal lawsuit Rauner filed against them last month in U.S. District Court.

Rauner wants a judge in Chicago - and ultimately the U.S. Supreme Court - to declare so-called “fair share” dues unconstitutional.

Nonmembers are required to pay the dues, which are lower than members’ dues, to cover the cost of non-political union activity such as collective bargaining. Rauner argues the dues violate the First Amendment because he says all union activity is essentially political.

The new Republican governor filed the lawsuit against more than two dozen unions representing state workers the same day he issued an executive order ending the dues. His administration estimated the order would keep about $3.75 million per year from unions’ coffers. That money is being held in escrow while the case moves through the courts.

The unions’ motion filed in federal court Thursday argues the issue shouldn’t be heard in federal court because it’s a question of state labor law, not federal law.

A decision on where the case will be heard has national implications because if the U.S. Supreme Court were to eventually take up the case and side with Rauner, the ruling could end fair share dues for unions throughout the country.

Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Illinois couldn’t require home health care workers who are not “full-fledged” state employees to have the dues deducted from their paychecks. But the court didn’t specifically rule on whether the dues also violate the First Amendment rights of state employees.

Unions say the dues guard against “free riders,” or workers who benefit from union representation but don’t contribute to the cost of providing those benefits.

Illinois AFL-CIO and 26 unions also filed a lawsuit Thursday in state court in St. Clair County, asking a judge to invalidate Rauner’s executive order. They argue he overstepped his constitutional authority and that the order violates Illinois law and the unions’ contracts with the state.

The fight over fair share dues is just one of the areas where Rauner has targeted unions, which he says have too much influence in state government and have contributed to Illinois’ financial problems.

Rauner spokesman Lance Trover said Thursday the legal proceedings were expected and part of unions’ efforts to maintain “the broken status quo.”

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