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Unions file motion to dismiss Rauner’s federal fair share case

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* AP

Unions late Thursday filed a motion to dismiss the case Rauner filed against them in federal court last month.

Rauner wants a judge in Chicago — and ultimately the U.S. Supreme Court — to declare so-called “fair share” dues unconstitutional. He also issued an executive order ending the requirement that nonmembers pay the dues.

The unions’ motion filed in U.S. District Court says the issue should be decided in state court because it’s a question of state law.

* To the motion

The Court must dismiss this action for lack of jurisdiction. The Governor’s claim does not “aris[e] under” federal law within the meaning of 28 U.S.C. §1331, because the federal question the Governor identifies – whether fair-share fees violate the First Amendment – would be raised only as a defense to a state law proceeding to enforce the fair-share provisions. The Governor also lacks standing to bring this suit in federal court because the state law and state contracts do not affect him in his personal capacity.

Alternatively, the Court should dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim, because fair-share provisions are a constitutional means of preventing free riding in a system of exclusive representative collective bargaining. “The First Amendment permits the government to require both public sector and private sector employees who do not wish to join a union designated as the exclusive collective-bargaining representative at their unit of employment to pay that union a service fee.” Locke v. Karass, 555 U.S. 207, 213 (2009) (unanimous decision).

* The First Amendment issue explained

The only federal issue identified in the Governor’s declaratory judgment complaint is whether fair-share fees violate the First Amendment. That First Amendment issue would arise only as a defense to the Unions’ hypothetical state law action to enforce the fair-share provisions of their contracts or to set aside the Governor’s Executive Order as inconsistent with the IPLRA.

The Unions’ hypothetical, well-pleaded claim for breach of contract would not present a federal question. See Minn. Elevator, Inc. v. Imperial Elevator Servs., 758 F. Supp. 2d 533, 537 (N.D. Ill. 2010) (elements of a breach of contract claim under Illinois law). The issue whether provisions of the contract are unconstitutional would be raised, if at all, only as a defense to the state-law breach-of-contract claim. See Employers Ins. of Wausau v. Titan Int’l, Inc., 400 F.3d 486, 900 (7th Cir. 2005) (illegality of the contract is an affirmative defense under Illinois law); Am. Buyers Club of Mt. Vernon, Ill. Inc. v. Grayling, 368 N.E.2d 1057, 1059 (5th Dist. 1977); see also Narkiewicz-Laine v. Scandinavian Airlines Sys., 587 F. Supp. 2d 888, 890 (N.D. Ill. 2008) (“Plaintiff brought state-law breach of contract claims. Because the conditions and limits of the Montreal Convention are defenses to the state-law claims raised by plaintiff, they do not provide a basis for federal-question subject matter jurisdiction.”).

Nor would a hypothetical, well-pleaded claim by the Unions to set aside the Executive Order as contrary to the IPLRA present a federal question. The IPLRA states on its face that it prevails over executive orders, 5 ILCS 315/15(a), and state statutes are presumed to be constitutional, see People v. Garcia, 770 N.E.2d 208, 209 (Ill. 2002). An argument that the fair-share provisions of the IPLRA are not valid would be raised, if at all, only as a defense to the Unions’ claim.

* Standing

State officials lack standing to challenge the constitutionality of state law in federal court where the officials are not personally adversely affected – that is, where their interest is official, rather than personal. For example, in Smith v. Indiana, 191 U.S. 138 (1903), a county auditor brought an action alleging that a state property tax statute was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, reasoning that:

The Seventh Circuit, in D’Amico v. Schweiker, 698 F.2d 903 (7th Cir. 1983), similarly “dismissed for want of standing a suit brought by administrative law judges of the Social Security Administration who were complaining that a directive by their superiors required them to decide social security cases in a manner contrary to law,” because “they did not suggest that compliance with the directive would reduce their pay or benefits or increase their work or anything of the sort.” Cronson v. Clark, 810 F.2d 662, 664 (7th Cir. 1987) (discussing D’Amico). D’Amico determined that “these administrative law judges . . . are the wrong people to be raising with us the question whether the challenged instruction is lawful.” D’Amico, 698 F.2d at 906; see also Finch v. Miss. St. Med. Ass’n, 585 F.2d 765, 774 (5th Cir. 1978) (Governor of Mississippi lacked standing to challenge constitutionality of state law).

Here, the Governor’s complaint does not identify any personal interest in this case sufficient to confer standing. The Governor is not personally subject to a fair-share requirement. Indeed, Governor Rauner is not even a party to the collective bargaining agreements with the defendant Unions; they were entered into by a state agency. See Complaint ¶ 14. Nor would the Governor receive any additional money if he prevailed in this litigation. The complaint, instead, alleges that this litigation is an exercise of the Governor’s “duty to protect the First Aendment rights . . . of all people in the State of Illinois,” and his desire not to “violat[e] his oath of office.” Complaint ¶ 84. But those are classic “official[] interest[s]” long held to be insufficient to confer standing. Smith, 191 U.S. at 149. […]

The Governor cannot confer standing upon himself to challenge the constitutionality of state law by issuing Executive Order 15-13 to instruct his subordinates to disobey the IPLRA. See D’Amico, 698 F.2d at 906 (“[I]f administrative law judges do not have standing to bring such a suit they cannot confer it on themselves, bootstrap fashion, by disobeying the instruction and then complaining that their disobedience laid them open to discipline.”). The Governor is free to rescind his Executive Order at any time. In essence, “[t]he mental disposition of the Governor is all that gives him cause to complain; were he to change his mind tomorrow and decide, rightly or wrongly, that the state statute is valid, he would no longer have any interest in the case. He has no personal stake in the outcome of this case; he will not be affected favorably by a decision that the statute is unconstitutional nor adversely by a decision that it is valid.”

* Failure to state a claim

Even if the Court has jurisdiction, the complaint still must be dismissed for failure to state a claim. The complaint seeks a declaration that “[t]he Fair Share Contract Provisions under the IPLRA are unconstitutional under the First Amendment.” Complaint at 21. At the same time, the complaint accurately states that “[i]n Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, 431 U.S. 209 (1977), the United States Supreme Court considered and approved ‘fair share’ provisions under a public sector labor contract.” Complaint ¶ 71. That concession is fatal to the request that fair share provisions be declared unconstitutional. “If a precedent of [the Supreme] Court has direct application in a case,” the obligation of a lower court is to “follow the case which directly controls, leaving to [the Supreme] Court the prerogative of overruling its own decisions.” Rodriguez de Quijas v. Shearson/American Express, Inc., 490 U.S. 477, 484 (1989). There is no question that Abood squarely held that fair share agreements are constitutional “insofar as the service charge is used to finance expenditures by the Union for the purposes of collective bargaining, contract administration, and grievance adjustment.” 431 U.S. at 225-26. And just recently, the Supreme Court refused to even consider the “argument that Abood should be overruled.” Harris v. Quinn

The governor’s office replied by reiterating yesterday’s comment about the state fair share lawsuit.

posted by Rich Miller
Friday, Mar 6, 15 @ 1:50 pm


  1. When will you people learn that I, Rauner, am above the law? I won’t stop signing EOs and filing lawsuits until I have broke the unions for good, and removed all Democrats from office. It is called Tea Bagging!

    Comment by Mama Friday, Mar 6, 15 @ 1:57 pm

  2. Rauner wins this thing in the end, he could be the next Secretary of Labor for President Walker, reaping the rewards of the lawsuit win…

    Comment by Oswego Willy Friday, Mar 6, 15 @ 1:59 pm

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