CHICAGO – Today the U.S. Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments in the Janus v. 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.”

Click here for video and sound from IEA President Kathi Griffin, Unique Morris, a teacher at Washington Elementary School in Riverdale, Ill, Ben Baar, eighth grade special education teacher at Rochelle Middle School in Rochelle, Ill and Stephanie Schwab, physical education teacher at Southern View Elementary in Springfield, Ill.

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The 135,000 member Illinois Education Association (IEA-NEA) is the state’s largest education employee’s organization. IEA represents preK-12 teachers outside of the city of Chicago and education support staff, higher education faculty, retired education employees and students preparing to become teachers, statewide.