Supreme Court to hear arguments on forced unionization for home-care families

posted at 10:01 am on January 21, 2014 by Ed Morrissey

Since we’ve taken time recently to highlight oral arguments at the Supreme Court for important political cases, let’s take a closer look at one that hits closer to home. In fact, Harris v Quinn hits directly at the home. Illinois passed legislation that requires people who received Medicaid funding for their home care of a disabled family member to join a union and pay union dues, under the legal argument that accepting the Medicaid benefit makes them a state employee. Today, Pamela Harris gets a chance to argue for federal intervention in this transparent attempt to enrich the coffers of unions without any added benefit for the families:

A 55-year-old woman who earns less than minimum wage caring for her disabled son could unravel decades of labor law and strike a blow against one of the most powerful political lobbies in the nation.

Pamela Harris is fighting an Illinois law crafted by imprisoned former Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D.) and enforced by his successor Pat Quinn (D.) that forces her and other home healthcare workers to pay union dues. Her case, Harris v. Quinn, begins oral arguments at the Supreme Court on Tuesday morning

“I don’t want to be the face and name associated with anti-union campaign, but this is at its heart a mother doing what she thinks is right for her son,” she told theWashington Free Beacon. “I don’t see this as a union issue, but the current administration in Illinois has an unhealthy relationship with public sector unions. We got swept up in that.” …

The government is arguing that because people like Harris receive taxpayer money, they are state employees subject to union dues, though not the pensions and liability coverage that their fellow public sector workers receive. Harris was puzzled by the classification, considering that unions cannot negotiate other benefits for her family because the Medicaid program is capped.

“One penny, one dollar taken out of [the monthly stipend] is taken out of support or services for Josh,” she said. “Being in a union is incompatible, intrusive, and going to interfere with the care I provide. The union is there to protect the union worker, so I don’t see how Josh benefits.”

ABC’s Chicago affiliate covered the story last week:

Josh Harris, 25, has Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome compounded by physical disabilities and mental illness. His family is in the Illinois home-based support services program which allows disabled adults to live in their homes. The state and federal governments pay home healthcare workers a monthly stipend, far less than what an institution costs, and Josh is able to live at home.

In January 2009, Governor Quinn signed an executive stating these home care givers– even moms and dads– are public employees available to be unionized by Illinois’ Service Employees International. Those who didn’t want to join the union would still have to pay for representation. “What we are talking about is unionizing family members, parents in a home. For me, that is inconsistent and intrusive and will interfere with Josh’s care,” said Pam Harris.

She and other disability program members voted the union down and sued Quinn in a class-action lawsuit that will be heard at the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday. If the court rules Quinn was wrong in declaring home-care providers public employees, unions could lose several hundred thousand members across the country.

WLS also gave the context in which Quinn issued this order:

During his political career, Quinn has taken nearly $5 million in campaign contributions from the service employees union.

“A couple weeks after the executive order was signed and the union campaign began, there was Governor Quinn on TV with the SEIU banner behind him and the SEIU leadership behind him, and I couldn’t help but think that this was an exchange, a deal,” said Pam Harris.

If this sounds familiar, it should. Minnesota’s Mark Dayton used the same justification to force the unionization of home day-care workers, saying that government subsidies to the families made these workers state employees. His first attempt to do this by executive order (as Quinn did) got stopped by a state judge in 2012, on the basis of separation of powers rather than on the merits of the law. However, the Democratic-controlled legislature passed it as legislation last May.

The Supreme Court has to answer the central question of whether receiving subsidies for medical care makes citizens federal employees at all, and may end up taking a much closer look at an earlier decision, Abood, that could threaten public-employee unions (PEUs) on a much larger scale. Abood held that public-sector workers who didn’t want to join a PEU still had to contribute dues to pay for the costs of collective bargaining. If the Supreme Court just focuses on the first question and renders the obvious decision, they may not need to address Abood at all. But if the argument Quinn and Dayton make holds up to that scrutiny, it’s possible that the court will let Harris and potentially millions of other union members off the hook from paying any dues at all. I’d bet that the court will limit itself to the first ridiculous argument, but the possibility exists that they will go big here.

If Quinn and Dayton thought they were doing the unions a favor — and clearly that’s what they intended — this might end up as the biggest backfire of all time for the labor movement.

Update: Per Canopfor, the Supreme Court is open for business today despite the storm, NBC reports.


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About that image selected for this post…

NotCoach on January 21, 2014 at 10:10 AM

MI tried that. One of the big reasons why right-to-work passed. Keep in mind they do not just have to join a union. They have to join the SEIU.

Happy Nomad on January 21, 2014 at 10:11 AM

Bust. The. Unions.

Lizzy on January 21, 2014 at 10:12 AM

At the very least I suspect SCOTUS will kill the requirement of family members to pay dues. Everyone else, I don’t know. Maybe Brave Sir Roberts sees a tax again…

NotCoach on January 21, 2014 at 10:12 AM

All welfare and food stamp recipients too, might as well go all out.

Oh…don’t forget the military either. Imagine the troops knocking-off combat at exactly 1700 and demanding overtime before they agree to repel the human wave assault flooding toward base.

Bishop on January 21, 2014 at 10:12 AM

Democrats are clearly fascists.

About that image selected for this post…

NotCoach on January 21, 2014 at 10:10 AM

Yeah, I could have done without that too.

BuckeyeSam on January 21, 2014 at 10:13 AM

Former Wisconsin governor Jim “Craps” Doyle tried the same thing in Wisconsin on his way out the door. Fortunately, the outgoing Rat Senate majority leader, Russ Decker, torpedoed that at the cost of his leadership position for the last 5 of 6 votes on union contracts.

And they wonder why Act 10 happened the way it did.

Steve Eggleston on January 21, 2014 at 10:19 AM

If receiving subsidies make individuals Federal workers then couldn’t Congress pass a law forcing all Social Security recipients to join a union, or a state force all Welfare recipients to join a union? (I suppose the latter could join the Loyal Brotherhood and Sisterhood of Mendicants . . .)

No Truce With Kings on January 21, 2014 at 10:19 AM

More examples of the Chicago way of doing business in the most corrupt state in the US. The last two governors ended up in jail. Wonder if this last one will be there shortly also.

regmgr on January 21, 2014 at 10:23 AM

Goonions in ones castle, er, home!!

canopfor on January 21, 2014 at 10:29 AM

MeanWhile:

Lyle Denniston Reporter

Posted Tue, January 21st, 2014 9:45 am
**************************************

Hawaii redistricting upheld

The Supreme Court, in a one-line order without explanation, on Tuesday upheld the 2012 plan for redistricting the state legislature in Hawaii. A three-judge federal District Court had rejected challenges to the plan by residents of Oahu.
(More….)
==========

http://www.scotusblog.com/2014/01/hawaii-redistricting-upheld/

AP Politics ‏@AP_Politics 13m

Supreme Court rejects former Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland’s appeal over improper layoffs in 2003. http://apne.ws/1bfPIie
============================================================

AP Politics ‏@AP_Politics 19m

Supreme Court upholds Hawaii reapportionment plan omitting some military personnel. http://apne.ws/1dMfD78
===========================================

https://twitter.com/AP_Politics

canopfor on January 21, 2014 at 10:33 AM

Democrats stealing money from the poor is a story line that the newspapers just won’t print. But that’s what this is, despite their partisan silence.

MTF on January 21, 2014 at 10:36 AM

Government of, for, and by the little union guy.

antipc on January 21, 2014 at 10:37 AM

So if you receive a tax refund are you required to pay union dues?

bgibbs1000 on January 21, 2014 at 10:42 AM

If receiving subsidies make individuals Federal workers then couldn’t Congress pass a law forcing all Social Security recipients to join a union…

No Truce With Kings on January 21, 2014 at 10:19 AM

In the interest of accuracy, I think the “logic” is not that as RECIPIENTS they are required to pay dues, but that they are HEALTH CARE WORKERS caring for their children and being compensated for that work by the government.

A better analogy would be to say that doctors and nurses who accept medicaid are federal workers and thus are obligated to pay dues. Perhaps even employees of stores that accept food stamps? Equally absurd, equally onerous.

topdog on January 21, 2014 at 10:46 AM

Hope SCOTUS does the right thing and she wins the case.

workingclass artist on January 21, 2014 at 10:47 AM

yep……

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qxsQ7jJJcEA

roflmmfao

donabernathy on January 21, 2014 at 10:52 AM

A better analogy would be to say that doctors and nurses who accept medicaid are federal workers and thus are obligated to pay dues. Perhaps even employees of stores that accept food stamps? Equally absurd, equally onerous.

topdog on January 21, 2014 at 10:46 AM

Nice analogy.

WisRich on January 21, 2014 at 10:52 AM

Keep unions the hell out of our lives and houses.

Wade on January 21, 2014 at 10:54 AM

Change the word “tax” to “dues”, and re-apply the definition.

Suddenly, everyone is a union member.

BobMbx on January 21, 2014 at 10:55 AM

Bust. The. Unions.

Lizzy on January 21, 2014 at 10:12 AM

You rock Lizzy! Let them crash and burn.

Wade on January 21, 2014 at 10:56 AM

They passed a law in WA state that requires home daycare providers that accept children who receive government subsidies to join SEIU, too. I had a friend who had to drop 3 of her long time kids to avoid being forced into subsidizing the Democrat party with mandatory union dues!

ihasurnominashun on January 21, 2014 at 11:00 AM

Hopefully they strike down all forced unionization, forced dues, and closed shops. Those should all be unconstitutional on first amendment freedom of assembly and speech grounds (especially with unions so involved in politics). But that is a pipedream with John “it’s a tax!” Roberts anywhere near the proceedings.

besser tot als rot on January 21, 2014 at 11:09 AM

Should also strike down all civil service unionization (including jobs like this one that are government funded).

besser tot als rot on January 21, 2014 at 11:11 AM

Using this logic, if someone receives a subsidy for their ObamaCare health insurance it makes them a State/Federal employee and they too must join a union. Now I understand the plan.

All states should pass right to work legislation. Where are we at now 28 states… only 22 29 to go.

Dasher on January 21, 2014 at 11:11 AM

Hopefully they strike down all forced unionization, forced dues, and closed shops.
besser tot als rot on January 21, 2014 at 11:09 AM

The sooner the better for all.

Wade on January 21, 2014 at 11:12 AM

There ought to be a special ring of hell for those who’d squeeze the most disadvantaged in society for the sake of political cronyism. And it says a lot about unions that they have to compel people to join by force of the state.

evergreen on January 21, 2014 at 11:27 AM

1) So slavery is alive and well with Democrat collusion with unions. After all, the recipient didn’t enter into an employment contract.

2) So if the home health caregiver is now an employee of the SEIU, that makes the SEIU liable for providing healthcare coverage or pay Obamacare fines, right?

dominigan on January 21, 2014 at 11:32 AM

Unions are shills for the democrats….they used to stand for something, now they are nothing more than a Ponzi scheme to keep lousy people in office who keep them fat.

crosshugger on January 21, 2014 at 11:45 AM

Most of these parents are “on duty” 24/7/365. Does this mean the unions will require at least minimum wage and overtimes? And what will that do for the state medicaid budget?

hopeful on January 21, 2014 at 12:50 PM

Public employees, logically, should have no right to form unions. JFK recognized this back in the early 60′s, FDR recognized this back in the 40′s. If these two liberal icons were so firmly against this, why are today’s dems so in the tank for it? Seems “your Father’s democrat party” has gone the way of the cuckoo bird.

NOMOBO on January 21, 2014 at 1:21 PM

Gov Sebelius ordered SHS to turn over all the personal information on care-givers in KS to the unions so they could push for that in Kansas, but the state courts stopped it. This is madness.

bopbottle on January 21, 2014 at 1:57 PM

So if the union goes on strike, are they expected to stop caring for their children, or would they be filthy scabs?

malclave on January 21, 2014 at 2:15 PM

So if the union goes on strike, are they expected to stop caring for their children, or would they be filthy scabs?

malclave on January 21, 2014 at 2:15 PM

Hmmm. I wonder where the unions would set up their picket lines? And would the Castle Doctrine apply at that point?

There Goes the Neighborhood on January 21, 2014 at 3:34 PM

“A 55-year-old woman who earns less than minimum wage caring for her disabled son”

Wait, what? You can get paid to care for your child? How do I get in on this?

Kevin M on January 21, 2014 at 4:09 PM

How do I get in on this?

Kevin M on January 21, 2014 at 4:09 PM

Be careful what you ask for. Believe me, you don’t want to “get in” on this.

Also, her son is not a child. Her son is an adult and would otherwise be a ward of the state, at considerably greater taxpayer expense.

topdog on January 21, 2014 at 4:57 PM

Harris’ story is especially compelling, according to the Washington Free Beacon.

“Her son Josh, 25, has a rare muscular genetic disease called Rubinstein-Taybi Syndrome that has left him intellectually disabled, non-communicative, and unable to control his body. She bathes him, brushes his teeth, pops his dislocated limbs back into place, and takes him to meetings with doctors, specialists, and therapists.”

The state pays $715 a month to cover Josh’s care, …

Like I said, be careful what you ask for.

topdog on January 21, 2014 at 5:13 PM

If I were forced into the SEIU thugocracy because of Democrat deals I would become their biggest pain in the azz.

Where is the contract? What specifically is the union doing for me or not doing? Are they representing me properly? If so, what have they done other than collect my forced dues?

At the same time I was being a festering thorn in their side, I would be organizing as many people in my situation as possible and getting them to do the same…and then demanding a vote every year to recertify or disband their representation.

This seriously is nothing more than a way for unions to get money, and launder tax dollars back to Democrats.

91Veteran on January 21, 2014 at 10:09 PM

91Veteran on January 21, 2014 at 10:09 PM

I agree. But I think SCOTUS will bless it anyways. Whatever they have on Roberts, they still have.

tngmv on January 21, 2014 at 10:24 PM