* Lynn Sweet…
WASHINGTON — Gov. Bruce Rauner, making his first official visit here since taking office — and faced with a primary challenge from the right — headed to the Trump White House Sunday and Monday on to the Supreme Court to hear arguments in the anti-union Janus v AFSCME, a case launched by Rauner.
Here’s an overview of Rauner’s official visit to the city that he has gone to lengths to avoid since being sworn in as governor in January 2015.
• Rauner has been doing everything possible to put distance between himself and President Donald Trump. He even skipped the 2016 GOP convention. Yet on Sunday night, Rauner and his wife, Diana, were going to the White House for the annual National Governors Association Governors’ Ball.
Rauner, according to his spokesman, Patty Schuh, was aiming to go to the White House on Monday morning for a working meeting Trump will have with Democratic and Republican governors here for the NGA 2018 Winter Meeting.
However, the timing may not work for Rauner to do both. He will have a seat in the Supreme Court for the Janus v AFSCME oral arguments, to start 9 a.m. Chicago time.
* He made it to the White House…
* AFSCME yesterday…
Two new stories published today in the New York Times and the Guardian reveal that the Janus v. AFSCME case — although fronted by a lone state employee from Illinois — is actually part of a “broad campaign against public-sector unions, backed by some of the biggest donors on the right.”
NEW YORK TIMES: Behind a Key Anti-Labor Case, a Web of Conservative Donors
“Conservative donors have created a symbiosis between groups aiming to overturn Supreme Court precedent favorable to unions and groups that take advantage of those rulings to drain unions of members.”
“Tax filings show that [Richard] Uihlein has also been the chief financial backer in recent years of the Liberty Justice Center, which represents Mark Janus … And Mr. Uihlein has donated well over $1 million over the years to groups like the Federalist Society that work to orient the judiciary in a more conservative direction. They have helped produce a Supreme Court that most experts expect to rule in Mr. Janus’s favor.”
GUARDIAN: Fears Grow As Rightwing Billionaires Battle to Erode US Union Rights
“Conservative activists and thinktanks, backed by corporate donors including the Koch brothers and the Bradley Foundation, have long been preparing for this moment, as part of a larger campaign to tilt the democratic process to the right. …
“A Guardian review of public records shows that the Bradley Foundation, a Wisconsin-based mega-donor to rightwing causes, has invested heavily in the anti-union campaign. Since the 1990s, the donor has given $30.5m to 24 conservative groups that have supported the legal assaults against public sector unions that have reached the supreme court. The two sponsors of the Janus case, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and the Illinois Policy Institute’s Liberty Justice Center, have between them received $1.6m in Bradley donations since 2003.”
McClatchy: Web of secret money hides one mega-donor funding conservative court
“When a small nonprofit called the Judicial Crisis Network poured millions into a campaign to stop the Senate from confirming Barack Obama’s Supreme Court pick last year, and then spent millions more supporting President Donald Trump’s choice for the same seat, political observers assumed conservatives from around the country were showering the group with donations.
“Newly obtained tax documents show that JCN’s money came almost entirely from yet another secretive nonprofit, the Wellspring Committee, which flooded JCN with nearly $23.5 million in 2016.
“Most of Wellspring’s funds, in turn, came from a single mysterious donor who gave the organization almost $28.5 million — nearly 90 percent of its $32.2 million in revenues. …
“Illinois Policy Action was another organization that benefited from Wellspring’s grants in 2016, receiving $2.5 million; it’s the lobbying arm of the Illinois Policy Institute, a conservative Chicago think tank in Chicago that has ties to the state’s billionaire governor, Republican Bruce Rauner …”
In These Times: Behind Janus: Documents Reveal Decade-Long Plot to Kill Public-Sector Unions
“The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation (NRTWLDF) supplied attorneys for most of these cases and is the lead attorney in Janus. Founded in 1968 with a mission to ‘eliminate coercive union power,’ the foundation (along with its advocacy arm) is an SPN member with $14 million in annual revenue. NRTWLDF is funded by the usual suspects: Donors Trust and Donors Capital, the Bradley Foundation, and the anti-public-school Walton Foundation, run by Walmart’s founding family.
“A long list of amicus curiae briefs from a variety of think tanks may make it seem as if the Janus side has broad national support. In fact, 13 of 19 briefs filed by organizations (rather than governments or individuals) for the plaintiff come from current or former members of SPN. Seventeen were filed by groups that have received funding from Bradley, Donors Capital and Donors Trust.”
Today the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments in the Janus vs. AFSCME case. The lawsuit aims to take away fair share fees for all public unions, including education employee unions like the Illinois Education Association (IEA), which means it will likely have a dramatic impact on public education.
“Nationally, about 70 percent of teachers belong to a union and here in Illinois that number is even higher. Nearly every preK-12 teacher in Illinois is in a union,” IEA President Kathi Griffin said. “The IEA alone has 135,000 members in Illinois. That’s why we have such outstanding schools. Our teachers and our education employees have a voice, and we are able to do what’s best for our students.”
Gov. Bruce Rauner originated this case in a lawsuit he filed against AFSCME Council 31 to try to weaken the union by banning fair share fees in state government. When the federal court said Rauner did not have standing to bring such a suit, he found a lone state employee-Mark Janus-to allow the legal challenge to proceed in his name. The suit is backed by the Liberty Justice Center (an arm of the Illinois Policy Institute) and the National Right to Work Foundation which is part of a network funded by corporate billionaires.
The Janus case is an attempt to take away the right of public unions to collect fair share fees from all employees and an attempt to take away the collective power of all public unions. Fair share fees are collected from all employees who join a workplace that is unionized. Those fees are used during the collective bargaining process to help fight for fair contracts that attract and retain quality employees. In the case of the IEA, those contracts also help improve learning conditions in schools by helping to keep class sizes low, implement new technology and training and by making sure schools are implementing practices to educate the whole child.
“The Janus case could affect our ability to fight for our students with our voices; our ability to negotiate fair contracts for teachers, support staff; our ability to take a look at what’s best for students, whether it’s classroom environments or curriculum decisions,” IEA member and teacher Unique Morris said. “It’s an attempt to break up unions and strip away the voice that we have that fights not just for students, but for parents and the communities that we service.”
* Pritzker campaign…
As the Supreme Court begins hearing oral arguments in Janus v. AFSCME today, JB Pritzker released the following statement:
“The future of the labor movement is under siege by Bruce Rauner and Donald Trump, and we must be relentless in the fight to protect unions and working families,” said JB Pritzker. “Our failed governor is going to extreme lengths to implement his far right-wing agenda to destroy our labor movement, and he’s partnered with none other than Donald Trump to make it a reality.
“In Janus v. AFSCME, the Supreme Court will hear radical arguments to undercut unions on a scale unlike anything we’ve seen before. While Trump and Rauner attack the freedom of working people to come together and fight for a better future, we must defend the hardworking men and women of the labor movement. As governor, I will fight alongside unions every day to raise wages, protect workers’ rights, and create jobs across Illinois.”