Blake Leitch is on a mission to serve.
He was born and raised in Charleston, Illinois. But after serving a tour in Iraq and returning home, Leitch was a changed man. He had found his calling: to give back.
“I was in my dream job [at the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs],” Leitch said. “I’m passionate about helping veterans.”
But when he went to work for the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs, there was a catch: part of his paycheck would go to the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 31.
“I remember very clearly where I was when I was forced to sign my union agreement. It was either sign this, or you can’t be employed by the state of Illinois,” Leitch said. “I felt like the little guy that couldn’t do anything.”
While Leitch chose not to pay full dues to AFSCME, he was still forced to send over $500 a year to the union in the form of “fair share” fees. Part of every paycheck was still going toward political causes that he didn’t believe in or agree with – and that troubled him.
“I fought in the military to protect my freedom, and [this] was going against everything I fought for,” he said. Leitch had been closely following the Supreme Court case Janus v. AFSCME and felt “relieved” when news broke the Supreme Court ruled in favor of workers’ First Amendment rights.
Leitch is now fighting back with the help of the Liberty Justice Center. He is the lead plaintiff in the federal class action lawsuit Leitch v. AFSCME, which demands unions refund a portion of agency fees that were unconstitutionally deducted from Blake’s and more than 2,700 other Illinois state workers’ paychecks.
“If we win this case, the money I get, I’ll donate it to a veterans’ organization,” he said.
“It’s not about the money. It all comes down to the principle.”