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Supreme Court Rules On Disability Caregivers


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WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court dealt a setback to the union movement, ruling personal home care employees cannot be forced to pay dues to a union.

In a 5-4 ruling written by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., the court said last week that these employees, some of whom care for their children with disabilities at home, have a constitutional right not to support a union they oppose.

The decision is a victory for the National Right to Work Foundation, which took up the cause of several mothers who objected to paying union fees. It is a defeat for the Service Employees International Union and Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn.

Beginning in 2003, Illinois officials agreed to deem these home care workers “public employees” because they are paid with Medicaid funds to care for adults with disabilities. That cleared the way for the SEIU to organize them into a union.

Union officials say they have won higher wages and better benefits for 20,000 of these home care assistants in Illinois. But anti-union lawyers sued the state, arguing these private assistants are not truly public employees and should not be compelled to pay fees to a union.

In keeping its ruling narrow, the court refrained from dealing an even greater setback to unions. Some had urged the court to rule that all public employees have a right to opt out of paying union dues, reversing its 1977 ruling that upheld mandatory union fees.

By law, public employees cannot be required to join a union and pay full dues as members. These dues may pay for lobbying and political spending.

But since 1977, the high court had upheld so-called “fair share” fees that require all the employees to pay a lesser amount to cover the cost of collective bargaining.

In recent years, however, more conservative justices raised doubts about whether the practice violated the First Amendment. They argued that the government usually cannot force individuals to support private groups, yet the mandatory fees forced some government employees to support organizations they opposed.

In the Illinois case, known as Harris v. Quinn, the National Right to Work Foundation urged the justices to either limit who can be forced to support a union or to strike down mandatory fees entirely.

The ruling casting doubt on mandatory fees could have a significant effect in Democratic-leaning states, which authorize unions and mandatory fees. These so-called blue states are in the Northeast, the Upper Midwest and on the West Coast. Most of the Republican-leaning red states in the South and the Great Plains have “right to work” laws that allow employees to opt out of unions.

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Comments (7 Responses)

  1. vmgillen says:

    If the people who initiated the action don’t want to be classified as public employees, right-to-work means they can quit. Period.

  2. Chaz says:

    Because a person is being paid using Medicaid funds to care for a disabled child or adult relative, he/she is automatically deemed a public employee? Under this logic, anytime a gov’t. program pays somebody for something, that person should be considered a public employee, which, luckily, is not the case (nor should it be…)

  3. cjb says:

    Caring for your kid should not force you into paying for Union dues. The SCOTUS got this one right. I don’t think anyone should be forced into a Union. My job has a union, but after seeing how they were, I elected to withdraw from it. I have always done better for myself on my own and without the help of a union.

  4. KA Johnson says:

    I totally agree that no one should be forced to join any union or association. It would be against the Constitution of the United States to do so. However, I do not believe that families should take other famililes money to care for their own children.

  5. Disabledsanity says:

    KAJohnson- People with disabilities need individualized care no matter their age, child or adult. Historically, the only options available have been institutions, nursing, or group homes at a tax payers cost of 60K-600K/year. While these settings have worked for some there is an exorbitant amount of neglect, abuse, and death. Instead of forcing people to move and be taken care of by strangers, these waivered programs offer options to stay in their homes or a family members’ home at a cost of 10k-100k/year. The outcomes have been proven to be better for the waiver recipients, their families, and all tax payers. Thank a care giver for saving you money!

  6. Susie Post says:

    Hello, I am an IHSS caregiver for our 26years old Autistic son.
    My county IHSS office denying my request not be in union. They told me that it’s mandatory fee even if I do not wish to join their union. They have been taking union dues since 2006.
    How can I stop what they are doing?
    Please advise me.
    Thank you.

  7. holly says:

    To Susie, your county is lying to you but to prove it you need a lawyer. so sorry but this is the world we live in today.

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