Long before he ran for governor, Bruce Rauner was a champion for school choice. That’s the shorthand way of saying he used his considerable clout and cash to support charter schools, most of which don’t welcome teacher unions.
So Dan Montgomery, president of Illinois Federation of Teachers, takes Rauner’s lawsuit Janus v. AFSCME personally.
“I don’t know the governor. I’ve never met the governor,” Montgomery says. “But people who do know him have told me there’s nothing he hates more than unions. And there’s no union he hates more than teachers unions.”
Most public school teachers in Illinois rely on unions to negotiate contracts and set working conditions. So both the IFT and the Illinois Education Association have been bracing for the Supreme Court to decide whether non-union members should have to pay fair-share dues. The Court considered a similar case in 2016, involving a California teacher, but split 4-4, leaving unions free to continue collecting fees from non-union-members who benefitted from collective bargaining. The outlook for unions changed in April 2017, when Justice Neil Gorsuch became the 5th conservative appointed to the nine-member U.S. Supreme Court.
Today, in a 5-4 decision, the Court ruled against public-sector unions, including those representing teachers and other school support staff like security guards, teachers’ aides, cafeteria and maintenance workers. The National Education Association, the country’s largest teachers union, has predicted that it will lose as many as 300,000 members.
“We know that that’s what Gov. Rauner and the special interest groups and the conservative right are looking for is to destroy us,” says Bridget Shanahan, media director for the NEA's Illinois organization. “But I can tell you the sentiment from our members is: They’re angry, and they’re upset about this ruling. They see it as an attack on public education, and an attempt to weaken our voice. They’re ready to fight.”
Rauner hailed the Supreme Court’s decision as a victory for taxpayers and public employees.