Scroogy IPI tells public workers to abandon unions

AFSCME Council 31 blames mailing about padding holiday cash on Rauner

Ebenezer Scrooge confronts his employee, Bob Cratchit, in an image in the public domain from a 19th-century edition of Charles Dickens’s “Christmas Carol.”

Ebenezer Scrooge confronts his employee, Bob Cratchit, in an image in the public domain from a 19th-century edition of Charles Dickens’s “Christmas Carol.”

By Ted Cox

A leading public employees’ union blames Gov. Rauner and the Illinois Policy Institute for a mass mailing advising workers to drop their membership in order to pad their paychecks for the holidays.

The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Council 31 is drawing attention to a mass mailing its members received advising them that their union dues “could be going into your pocket this Christmas.”

The letter was signed by Mailee Smith, who according to Rich Miller’s Capitol Fax blog is an IPI staff attorney.

It’s just the latest in a series of battles in a back-and-forth between Rauner and AFSCME, extending right up to the end of the lame-duck governor’s term in office.

AFSCME Council 31 posted last week that its members were receiving “corporate junk mail” trying to “trick AFSCME members into quitting their union” from the IPI, which it pointed out has received funding in the past from Rauner and the Koch brothers.

The letter stated that “the average person plans to spend a little more than $1,000 during holiday shopping this year,” adding that “typical dues for AFSCME Council 31 can be $1,100 per year. That’s money that could be going into your pocket this Christmas.” It also gives instructions on how to drop union membership.

IPI spokeswoman Melanie Krakauer acknowledged the holiday mailing, saying, “The letters are part of our educational efforts.”

In that, it follows a pattern the IPI established immediately after the Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 decision was handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court in June. Although the decision only ended so-called fair-share fees for public employees who don’t belong to unions, Rauner and the IPI used it to encourage state workers to drop union membership entirely, with Rauner creating a state website to ease the process — a move University of Illinois labor professor Robert Bruno called “strikingly partisan.”

AFSCME Council 31 dismissed the latest mailing, pointing out that “union ranks are actually growing in the wake of the Janus case.” It advised members to take the holiday junk mail and “trash it, recycle it, or use it to kindle your fireplace this Christmas season.”

The union pointed to a New York Times story earlier this year that reported that the IPI said it had obtained state workers’ home addresses through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The Rauner administration has not been so amenable on other FOIA requests, and as the governor prepares to leave office next month he continues to fight a suit he filed against state Attorney General Lisa Madigan and One Illinois resisting the release of 1,783 emails on government appointmentsemails the state’s public access counselor already ruled must be released to the public.

The Rauner administration and the IPI did not immediately respond to requests for comment.