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By AFSCME Council 31 Explore the Issues Workers' Rights

‘A Form of Identity Theft’

Policy Institute misuses union member's photo for its anti-union agenda

Imagine being a longtime, dedicated union activist – elected by your co-workers as their local union president – and then seeing your photo misused by an anti-union front group to promote its anti-worker agenda.

That’s exactly what happened to Darneice Cooper, a casework manager with the Illinois Department of Human Services and the president of AFSCME Local 2806.

“People e-mailed me and said, ‘You know your picture is on the website of the Illinois Policy Institute,’” Cooper relates. “I'm like, ‘What? You’ve got to be kidding me.’ So, I went on there and sure enough my picture was right there [next to a headline encouraging state workers to quit the union]. Like I'm supporting that caption that they have under my name! I was appalled. I was very upset.”

The Illinois Policy Institute is a front group funded by billionaire Gov. Bruce Rauner, the Koch Brothers and others. Its litigation arm, the Liberty Justice Center helped to engineer the Janus v. AFSCME case, and IPI is a member of the nationwide State Policy Network that’s rolling out an $80 million nationwide scheme to try to trick members into quitting their union.

Of course, the real agenda behind the IPI scheme is to drain the union of resources so it can’t stand up for workers. The IPI has previously called for all state employees to be fired, pensions to be eliminated and so-called ‘right-to-work’ schemes to be implemented in Illinois.

Cooper couldn’t be more opposed to IPI’s anti-union attacks, and she immediately wrote a letter demanding that the front group stop misusing her photo.

“This is really a form of identity theft – using my image to promote something that is completely wrong in my eyes,” she wrote. “I am a proud AFSCME member, I support my union, and I will never quit standing with my fellow workers.”

Here’s the full text of Cooper’s letter:

To whom it may concern:

I was shocked and dismayed to discover recently that you are using my photo on your website as part of your effort to get employees to drop out of our union. This is a really a form of identity theft – using my image to promote something that is completely wrong in my eyes.

I am a proud AFSCME member, I support my union, and I will never quit standing with my fellow workers.

I was outraged by the Supreme Court’s decision in the Janus case. Five conservative justices sided with the billionaires and corporate special interests who funded this case – and who fund your organization. They ruled against not just those of us who work in public service, but those we serve every day.

I help make sure some of Illinois’s most vulnerable seniors get the care they deserve. I don’t do what I do to get rich, like our billionaire governor or your corporate donors.

Like my co-workers, I’m in public service because I care about my community. Being in a union gives us a voice and allows us to fight for the resources we need to serve the people of Illinois.

Please remove my photo from your website immediately.

Sincerely,

Darneice Cooper

Proud Member of AFSCME Local 2806