Yesterday, Governor Bruce Rauner signed Executive Order 15-13, which makes it illegal for public sector unions to collect dues from fair share members. Executive Order 15-13 covers workers employed by state agencies directly under Rauner’s control, such as correctional officers, child protective service workers, and those who care for veterans and the disabled. Executive Order 15-13 does not impact educational workers–which means GEO, UIC-UF, and Illinois teachers are not covered by this order.

UPDATE:  According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Illinois Comptroller Leslie Munger will not be following the Executive Order, refusing to set aside “fair share dues” without a court order.  Attorney General Lisa Madigan agrees with the Comptroller’s decision, stating that the fair share fees are constitutional under Illinois law.  You can read more here.

What is “fair share”?

“Fair share” is the name given to workers who are represented by a union and who are covered by the union contract, but who have not signed a membership card. The logic behind fair share is that, since all workers who work under a union contract benefit from the union’s work in negotiations and in protecting the workers, they should contribute dues to the union. Amy Livingston, GEO staff, wrote a piece explaining how fair share works and how Harris v. Quinn, last summer’s Supreme Court case would affect GEO that also offers a more detailed and nuanced definition of the term.

Why does Rauner want to get rid of it?

Rauner has argued that because state unions negotiate with state officials, any union negotiation is political speech. Under that logic, compelling fair share members to pay dues violates their First Amendment rights. It is important to note that in Illinois, fair share dues cannot be spent on campaign contributions, political activities, or on any other expense that would traditionally be considered “political speech.” Rauner’s argument depends on a novel and distorted interpretation of what constitutes “political speech” developed and promoted by the National Right to Work Foundation and other anti-union organizations.

What do unions do with dues?

Union dues pay for a number of things: staffers help members organize, draft contract language, and guide us through legal issues (such as this one). Unions also rely on lawyers to help win grievance cases. We have 1400 members; imagine the legal costs for larger unions! A large part of every union’s budget is paid to our parent union (IFT) who provides us with innumerable services: legal protection, training, support, and so on. With the end of fair share, much of the union’s time will be taken up getting members to sign cards and pay dues; much less can be devoted to protecting workers and members of the community. It’s possible your contact with the GEO has been at our socials and lunches–so it’s easy to think we spend dues on food and drink. But this is a tiny part of our budget.

What does EO 15-13  mean for GEO?

Fortunately, nothing yet. But, it does gives us a clue as to what Rauner–whose anti-union rhetoric was central to his campaign–might be planning. While it seems unlikely that EO 15-13 will be upheld, his action (along with his recent proposal suggesting that state workers’ collective bargaining rights be massively curtailed) indicates that he’s coming hard after labor unions.

Okay, so what happens if Rauner signs an EO that strips the GEO and other teachers’ unions of their fair share rights?

Well, the work of the union will change radically. Our staff and active members’ time will be taken up collecting signatures and dues, not working grievance cases, fighting to improve and enforce our contract, and having less time overall to focus on members’ concerns and working conditions. It will change how the union does business. Right now, we will focus on increasing the number of card-signing members we have so that the executive order will have a minimum impact on our budget.

So, what can I do?

You can do three things:

  1. If you haven’t already, sign a card! If you aren’t sure, sign another! Email us at so we can bring you a membership card or answer any questions you might have.
  2. Ask your colleagues to sign cards, too!
  3. Attend the Organizing/Stewards Meeting Wednesday at 4PM in the GEO office (815 W. Van Buren Suite 203 above Giordano’s) to learn how to get cards signed to protect your union!

This is an “all hands on deck” moment, similar to the end of fair share in Wisconsin in 2011. Now is the time to join your union and defend your rights as workers!

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