In addition to dismantling the birth control mandate, our beloved neo-feudalist Supreme Court also struck a 5-4 ruling against unions early on Monday in the case Pamela Harris, et al v. Pat Quinn, Governor of Illinois. Are they even pretending anymore?
Reuters reports the SCOTUS ruled that people who are in-home care and paid by the state are not the same as a full-fledged government employees and cannot be forced to pay union dues. The ruling, written by conservative Justice Samuel Alito, declared that the plaintiff Pamela Harris and others who give in-home care for family members and people with disabilities were not public employees. According to Reuters, Harris cares for her adult son around-the-clock because of a rare genetic disorder:
Harris cares for her adult son Josh Harris, who has a rare genetic syndrome and needs around-the-clock care.
In Illinois, as in many states, home-based personal care workers who assist the disabled are paid with Medicaid funds as state employees. The practice is meant to lower overall care costs by keeping disabled individuals at home and out of institutions.
For more than a decade now, home-based workers in Illinois have been represented by SEIU Healthcare Illinois-Indiana. The collective bargaining agreement between the union and the state provides that all such workers pay compulsory union fees.
Harris, along with other home-based workers, sued Illinois and Governor Pat Quinn, a Democrat, claiming that the compelled payment of union dues was a form of forced speech prohibited by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
The court’s 4 liberal justices dissented in the case.
While the case overturns a decades old practice allowing public sector unions to collect money from workers that don’t want union representation as long as the money isn’t used for political purposes, the decision leaves intact the court’s 1977 ruling, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, that said unions could collect compulsory dues for non-political activities under collective bargaining agreements.
The anti-worker, anti-union National Right to Work (For Less) Legal Defense Foundation, who represented the employees and had asked the court to upend the decades-old practice that lets public sector unions collect money from workers who don’t want union representation, led the charge:
Backed by the anti-union National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, the employees had asked the court to upend a decades-old practice that lets public-sector unions collect money from workers who do not want union representation, so long as the money is not spent on political activities.
But the decision left intact the court’s 1977 ruling in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education. That ruling said unions could collect such compulsory dues used for non-political activities under collective bargaining agreements.
“Abood involved full-fledged public employees, but in this case, the status of personal assistants is much different,” Alito wrote for the majority.
Illinois law excludes such in-home caregivers from retirement and health insurance plans and the state does not assume liability for actions taken during the course of their employment, Alito noted.
“Illinois deems personal assistants to be state employees for one purpose only, collective bargaining,” Alito wrote.
The National Right to Work (For Less) Foundation predictably supported the ruling; the group’s president, Mark Mix, released a statement after the ruling saying that:
“We applaud these homecare providers’ effort to convince the Supreme Court to strike down this constitutionally-dubious scheme, thus freeing thousands of homecare providers from unwanted union control.”
The case was originally dismissed at the district level, but the workers asked the Supreme Court to take the case, according to Reuters:
A district court dismissed the case, citing long-standing Supreme Court precedent that mandatory union dues can be collected to support non-political activities. The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago affirmed that ruling after concluding the workers bringing the case were state employees.
The workers asked the Supreme Court to take the case. That prompted the filing of friend-of-the-court briefs supporting the workers from several conservative groups, including the Cato Institute, the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence and the Illinois Policy Institute.
Labor unions, the American Association of People With Disabilities and the state of California were among interests that filed briefs supporting Illinois in the case.
And all the delusions of “freedom” and “individuality” and “hard work ethic” in the world can’t remove that reality.