CHICAGO - In 2009, Illinois' Governor Quinn ordered parents who care for their disabled children in their own homes to pay collective bargaining fees to public sector unions. The parents rejected union representation and filed a lawsuit against Governor Quinn, putting his executive order on hold.
After four years, the dispute has finally reached the U.S. Supreme Court. Last week, the Court agreed to hear arguments in the case of Harris v. Quinn, in which the mother of a disabled adult son is suing the governor of Illinois.
"Unions are pocketing precious funding intended to help support our sons and daughters," Mrs. Harris said in a statement to Illinois Review, "Our case intends to stop this scheme."
September 2009 Illinois Review story: "Home Caretaker harrassed by union thugs, thanks to Gov Quinn"
October 2009 Illinois Review story: SEIU-Bullied IL home health care works hit national news
October 2009 Illinois Review story: Parents say "NO" to Quinn's Unionization
In June 2009, Illinois’ Governor Quinn issued Executive Order 15, which set up collective bargaining for individual providers of the Home Based Support Services program. The following October, an overwhelming 66% of the parent-caretakers voted against union representation and neither of the two unions seeking collective bargaining status - SEIU or AFSCME - received more than 20% of the vote.
Despite the families rejecting union representation, Governor Quinn refused to rescind the Executive Order, and the Harris vs. Quinn case stands between the parents and Quinn's order being enforced.
Illinois-based SEIU is confident Governor Quinn's order will be upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
"There is a long legacy of previous Supreme Court decisions finding that 'fair share fees' – reduced fees that unions charge to non-members to represent them in collective bargaining – are fully constitutional," SEIU Healthcare II President Keith Kelleher said in a statement.
However, the parent caretakers in question do not receive state employee healthcare, pensions, or any other government employee benefits, the National Right to Work Committee said in response, but they will be required to kickback to union officials part of the Medicaid and other payments that they receive for helping people in their homes.
Ever since California Gov. Gray Davis handed over tens of thousands of parents, grandparents, and other independent personal home-care providers to SEIU union bosses, SEIU, AFSCME, and even the UAW unions have used forced-unionism state laws combined with gubernatorial and legislative fiats to corral millions into paying dues to unions who do not even fully represent these captives, the National Center said.
The California law even explicitly stated that these home-care providers were not state employees except for the purposes of collective bargaining; i.e.: dues collection. In some cases, the California parents paid $100 per month.
But that $1200 a year is fair, SEIU's president said.
"Just as there is no doubt that fair share fees are constitutional, it is equally as clear that they yield big benefits for the people who pay them. Since personal assistants employed by the Illinois Department of Rehabilitation Services began collective bargaining with the state in 2003, they have won a 65 percent increase in wages, their first-ever health care fund and resources that support professional training and development," Kelleher said.
Even today, these workers continue their struggle to obtain a living wage. The plaintiffs who brought the Harris case would have prolonged that hardship by weakening the mechanism that has raised wages for all home care workers, while also reducing turnover, Kelleher said.
Kelleher argues that those two important advances, along with professional training the union provides, have improved the quality of home care and helped curtail the state’s spending on more costly long-term institutional care. And in the end, people with disabilities – the consumers who rely on home care providers to live independently — have been the ultimate beneficiaries of the more economically stable and better trained workforce created by collective bargaining.
Pam Harris wrote to Illinois Review about her situation in September 2009:
Families like mine, we’re not boat rockers. We struggle to keep it all together and there is little extra time to deal with the union’s organizing invasion and gag orders from the State of Illinois. It’s not an easy life but damn it – I’m not too overwhelmed to speak up when someone is trying to take advantage of us and jeopardize the little support we do get.
Forcing me to join a union? Giving out my personal contact information? Responding to my questions and concerns with lightly veiled threats?
What is going on?
Harris vs Quinn was listed for conference several times before the Court adjourned its 2012-13 Term on June 26, 2013, without issuing any order in the case. The case was then re-listed for the September 30 conference, and the Court finally granted certiorari on October 1, 2013. Arguments await scheduling.