By Benjamin Yount, Illinois Watchdog -
No one has to pay Pam Harris to take care of her disabled son, Josh.
Pam pushes Josh in a wheelchair, feeds him, bathes him and tries to manage Josh’s rare genetic condition Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome because she’s his mother, and loves him dearly.
The Harris’, like several hundred other families of profoundly disabled children and adults in Illinois, receive a small stipend from Social Security (about $2,100 a month) to offset the huge cost of care.
But where Pam Harris sees a trickle of money to help pay for physical therapy or a bigger bathtub, the Service Employees International Union sees a pile of cash that the union thinks should be theirs.
In 2009, with the backing of SEIU and Illinois’ other massive public employee union the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn quietly signed an executive order that gave SEIU and AFSCME a chance to grab some of the Harris’ Social Security money.
Executive order 15 declares that parents like Harris are “public employees,” but only for the sake of collective bargaining, and that SEIU and AFSCME can try and organize them.
“The state also provided SEIU and AFSCME our names and our addresses,” Harris said. “When they come to your door, and they’re cute 25-year0olds from California or the East Coast, they have no idea about the politics of Illinois. They have no idea about what it is to be a parent of an adult with significant disabilities.”
Harris recalls the young SEIU volunteer just asking Harris to sign a card “so my boss knows I spoke to you.”
But those cards were authorization for a union vote, and if enough people signed the cards, the families would have to vote on joining a union.