CHICAGO - Illinois mom Pam Harris was appalled when purple-shirted SEIU workers knocked on her door one Sunday morning in 2009, pushing her to join their public sector union. As a mom that is compensated by the state to care for her own disabled adult son, Mrs. Harris expressed frustration with Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, who issued an executive order opening the way for SEIU and AFSCME unions to expand their ranks into private homes like the Harrises'.
At the time, Mrs. Harris reached out to Illinois Review for help in keeping the unions at bay. We ran the story "Home health care workers plea for help to fight union bullies," and soon the effort was picked up by national blogs. The Harrises reached out to the National Right to Work Committee, and with their legal assistance, a court order slowed the union's progress. Mrs. Harris' complaint now stands before the U.S. Supreme Court.
This month, the Court will be hearing the case Mrs. Harris filed against Governor Quinn with the help of the National Right to Work Committee. Even a pro-labor union attorney writes in Salon that Mrs. Harris and the Right to Work Committee's complaint could overturn decades-old legal precedent and turn the labor movement in America on its ear.
Harvard Law School professor Benjamin Sachs, a former union attorney and founder of the On Labor blog writes:
The third possibility is the one I think that is on everyone’s mind, and in some ways probably the most likely outcome of the case. That ruling would say Abood is wrong, we overturn it: It is unconstitutional in the public sector to require a public employee to pay dues to the union, even when those dues are used only for collective bargaining purposes.
That ruling would convert all public sector employment into a kind of right-to-work regime in which no mandatory dues can be required even though the union is required to represent everybody in the bargaining unit. That would be an incredibly sweeping opinion, with dramatic consequences for public sector unions all over the country, including teachers.
This is not just a kind of labor law, labor union issue. Public sector unions are incredibly important to our politics. They are a primary supporter of the Democratic Party. If you make unconstitutional the dues arrangements in the public sector, you’re really going to — I don’t want to say “cripple,” but hinder dramatically the ability of unions to participate as vibrant political actors.
There’s another thing the court could do. This case all along has been about “mandatory dues.” But in the briefing to the Supreme Court, the Right to Work Committee has now expanded what they’re asking for. So they’re now asking not just that mandatory dues be unconstitutional, but that “exclusive representation” itself be unconstitutional. If that argument is considered by the court and wins, the only kind of unionism you could have in the public sector is “minority” or “members-only” unionism, so that the only people that would be covered by a collective bargaining agreement and represented by the union are those who affirmatively desire to become members.
More of Sachs' opinion HERE. More from Mrs. Harris: