FILE - Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul

In this Aug. 12, 2015, file photo, Illinois State Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, speaks during a news conference at the Capitol, in Springfield.

A new federal rule that keeps taxpayer-funded Medicaid money from being diverted away from providers is being challenged by Illinois’ Attorney General.

The National Right To Work Foundation calls it a blatant attempt from “union bosses and their political allies” to “skim union dues.”

Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul’s office announced Thursday it joined with several other states, including California, in a lawsuit challenging a federal rule put in place earlier this year to “eliminate a state’s ability to divert Medicaid payments away from providers.”

This has “the effect of no longer allowing union dues to be deducted from personal assistant paychecks,” Raoul’s office said. “It is a gross violation of workers’ rights that creates an unnecessary barrier to paying union dues, which hinders workers’ ability to collectively bargain.”

Raoul joined the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Oregon and Washington in challenging the rule.

“Providers are right to oppose this lawsuit’s blatant attempt to enable union bosses to skim union dues in violation of federal law,” National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix said. “Contrary to the wishes of union bosses and their political allies, union officials are not entitled to a special exemption from federal law.”

The federal rule stems from an Illinois case that went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court to block forced union fees for home health workers.

Back in 2014 the Illinois case Harris v. Quinn went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. As a mother, Pam Harris took care of her son who requires regular medical assistance. The family was using Medicaid. State law then required Harris to pay union fees to the Service Employees International Union, something Harris didn’t want to be forced to do.

The Supreme Court sided with Harris. The ruling didn’t prohibit unionization of home health workers but did prohibit forced union fees from people home health workers who don’t want to join a union.

“Nothing in this rule stops union officials from collecting voluntary dues from voluntary union members, it just says that taxpayers and government shouldn’t act as the bagman for such dues payments,” Mix said. “The hysterical response by Big Labor and its political allies to this simple clarification of what is longstanding federal law suggests they are worried that many members union officials claim to represent won’t pay dues once they realize they have a choice.”

Harris v. Quinn was followed by another Illinois case Janus v. AFSCME. In that case, former state employee Mark Janus challenged forced union fees, known as agency fees. The fees aren’t full dues, but were required to be paid by state law.

The U.S. Supreme Court sided with Janus in 2018. The ruling didn't prohibit unionization of public employees, but did prohibit forced union fees from public employees who don’t want to associate or pay for the speech of a union they don’t agree with.

There are several lawsuits across the country of public employees, including Janus and several other public employees in Illinois, seeking millions of dollars in agency fees they were forced to pay as a condition of employment up until last year’s ruling in the Janus case.

“We here at the foundation have 16 cases that add up to about $120 million in rebates for workers across the country,” Mix said.

Staff Reporter

Greg Bishop reports on Illinois government and other statewide issues for The Center Square. Bishop has years of award-winning broadcast experience, and previously hosted “Bishop On Air,” a morning-drive current events talk show.