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It's Supreme Court decision season, and one case to watch for is Harris v. Quinn, in which the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is seeking essentially to overturn union rights for home care workers. The question, as is so often the case, is whether the Supreme Court will uphold the status quo or overturn years of precedent and undermine unions and worker organizing. Labor scholar John Logan sums up the key questions:
First, are home care aides correctly defined as public employees for the purposes of collective bargaining? [...]

Second, can the union require non-members to pay "agency fees" to cover representation costs? [...]

Third, is bargaining on behalf of home care aides inherently different? National Right to Work claims that bargaining on behalf of home care aides should be considered petitioning of government. [...]

Finally, if the court were to side with NRTW's extremist position and rule against the right to charge non-members agency fees, does that ruling apply only to home care aides or also to every public-sector worker in the country?

Unions and collective have improved working and living conditions for home care workers in many states, and in so doing have improved the level of service they're able to offer. Home care workers only unionize after a vote, and those who do not want to support the union's political activities can opt out of paying union dues, instead paying an agency or fair share fee that covers only the cost of representing them in the workplace. Whether this can continue, as courts have previously affirmed, is what the Supreme Court is now considering.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Thu May 29, 2014 at 09:38 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Magic 8 ball says.... (4+ / 0-)

    5-4 decision against unions.  Roberts to write the majority opinion, co-signed by Alito, Scalia, and Kennedy. Will feature the sentence, "Nothing is more important than the right of workers to unionize. But..." in first or second paragraph.

    Thomas to write his own concurrence, saying he would have gone farther and mandate that home care workers be beaten with tree branches for having the temerity to question the wisdom of their betters.

    1. Books are for use.

    by looty on Thu May 29, 2014 at 09:50:08 AM PDT

  •  good luck to the/workers! (4+ / 0-)

    decent wages don't eliminate jobs. Republicans eliminate jobs; and workers, and prospects, and then excuse it all and call for more austerity. there is no end to their ignorant, arrogant avarice. only political dinosaurs support their treachery.

    by renzo capetti on Thu May 29, 2014 at 09:50:35 AM PDT

  •  SCOTUS could go all the way and outlaw ALL (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    radarlady, commonmass

    public employee unions.

    "Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity." --M. L. King "You can't fix stupid" --Ron White -6.00, -5.18

    by zenbassoon on Thu May 29, 2014 at 09:51:29 AM PDT

    •  It's much more likely the Court will state (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Fake Irishman

      that the home healthcare workers, who are paid by Medicaid to care for family members, are not state employees. If the plaintiffs win I think that will be as far as it goes. They aren't going to outlaw all public employee unions.

      "let's talk about that" uid 92953

      by VClib on Thu May 29, 2014 at 02:56:06 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Highly unlikely. Public employee unions are aut... (0+ / 0-)

      Highly unlikely. Public employee unions are authorized by state laws. Since the federalist society loves it's states rights I don't think that is a bridge they will cross. Of course intellectual consistency is not a plus of the ROBERTS COURT.

  •  Didn't this case start from a family member tak... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    VClib

    Didn't this case start from a family member taking care of a parent or something being forced to pay union fees? I never liked this case because so many of these supposed public employees were parents or children taking care of their loved ones. To me it seems the union got a little greedy. Hopefully this doesn't do permanent harm to real employees by having public unions severely weakened.

    •  localokie - here is a good, short, summary (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Fake Irishman

      of the issues in this case.

      http://www.scotusblog.com/...

      "let's talk about that" uid 92953

      by VClib on Thu May 29, 2014 at 10:21:10 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  If I am understanding this correctly... (0+ / 0-)

      ... they are hired by a family member, but being paid by Medicaid.  It is a bit perverse that somebody has to pay a union if their job is taking care of a grandparent but, on the other hand, they are being paid by the state.  

      •  The issue here for me... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Gooserock, Dirtandiron, jfdunphy

        ...is that a third party (in this case, Medicaid) is footing the bill -- so they may be taking care of a grandparent, but they are in a very real sense an employee of the state.

        I would presume that anyone who chooses to take care of a family member without receiving compensation from the state is certainly free to do so without having to pay the union representation fee.  

        If Democrats proclaim the the Earth is round and Republicans insist it is flat, we will shortly see a column in the Washington Post claiming the the earth is really a semi-circle.

        by TexasTom on Sat May 31, 2014 at 02:14:19 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Home care workers are monitored by state (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Dirtandiron, jfdunphy

          workers who have to determine the level of care and chore services indicated by the eligible adult's condition and then make regular visits to see that the level of care is actually given.  A large number of these cases do not involve relatives caring for relatives, and in those cases the social worker must assist in finding and performing background checks on unrelated caregivers.  I did this work back in the '90's and can attest that the care arrangements are not clear-cut and often involve shifts of different caregivers.  The program was designed to keep people out of vastly more expensive nursing homes.  The caregiver pay at that time was shamefully low.

          Building a better America with activism, cooperation, ingenuity and snacks.

          by judyms9 on Sat May 31, 2014 at 02:59:38 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  And if they are non-union workers, that (0+ / 0-)

            gives the employment agencies lots of power over the workers, which means that the workers are subject to employer intimidation. Workers know the rules against Medicare and medicaid fraud, but if they dare report that their employer is defrauding the government, they will get fired and the fraud will go on. Unions can provide a big layer of protection for the taxpayer by standing up for workers who are whistleblowers. Right now, there are reports out by the medicare Office of inspector general stating that they know that Doctors are overcharging the Medicare system to the tune of billions, but the OIG is concerned about not paying some doctors enough. If Medicare isn't going after the doctors that are overcharging, then it's a safe bet the OIG isn't going too hard against the home health aide agencies who are literally doing the dirty work of providing the "activities of daily living{ (ADL) for the sick and injured. IMO, there should be more enforcement, not less. If people knew how much waste was involved in the system, they would scream for reform.

    •  They are real Employee's. Do not call them when... (0+ / 0-)

      They are real Employee's. Do not call them when you need someone to care for you, or someone close to you.

  •  This is a very complex case (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    commonmass, Fake Irishman

    There are two groups of state "employees" and for one group in particular there is a real debate regarding whether they are state employees at all. It's hard to determine in advance where the Court will come out on this case. They could make a very narrow ruling that would deal only with the home healtcare workers who are paid by Medicaid.

    Scotusblog. com is always a great resource for any case at the Supreme Court. In particular their analysis of cases, including the award winning "In Plain English" columns are great for understanding the issues in the cases without any bias toward one side or the other. Here is the home page on this case, Harris v Quinn:

    http://www.scotusblog.com/...

    "let's talk about that" uid 92953

    by VClib on Thu May 29, 2014 at 10:14:33 AM PDT

  •  I hate that photo (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dirtandiron, jfdunphy

    only because Clarence Thomas looks like:  "I don't give a shite about anything other than I got this lifetime appointment.  Ditto whatever Scalia says."  That his stupid assed wife can get away with such blatant baggery while he's on the bench makes me sick.

    " My faith in the Constitution is whole; it is complete; it is total." Barbara Jordan, 1974

    by gchaucer2 on Sat May 31, 2014 at 02:39:38 PM PDT

    •  It reminds me of the famous photo of the (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dirtandiron, jfdunphy

      crew of the USS Pueblo captured by the North Koreans in which each one had extended a middle finger to the North Koreans.  Those four partisans in the front row have achieved the same effect in their message to us, with Ruth Bader Ginsburg distancing herself from their oafishness.

      Building a better America with activism, cooperation, ingenuity and snacks.

      by judyms9 on Sat May 31, 2014 at 03:08:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Two things this country needs: (0+ / 0-)

      Impeach SEVERAL SCOTUS Justices for, at the very least, lying under oath during their nomination hearings, and bring back the Fairness Doctrine.

      Ain't never gonna get it.

      "I feel a lot safer already."--Emil Sitka

      by DaddyO on Sat May 31, 2014 at 05:45:14 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Aw, I like it because Justice Ginsburg is leaning (0+ / 0-)

      away from the rest, as if thinking, "Man, eff these guys."

  •  ok, as someone with over 10 years as a (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jfdunphy

    home health care aide of a family member (yes, a union member) I would like to say, if they don't want to pay for the assistance in getting raises, they should revert to the salary rate before the union arrived, and have the right to negotiate a raise as an individual.

    The Union got me a decent raise, benifits, and additional benifits for the rest of the workers that I had no interest in (education/training, certification, etc.)

    home health care aides are stolen from worse then other minimum wage workers because they get no social security paid.  So, not only are they underpaid at the time, they're under paid when they retire.

    cough idiots cough

  •  Is there any real question how they'll rule? (0+ / 0-)

    ???

    Kiss those union rights goodbye. Thanks to George W. Bush and Al Gore refusing to fight for his Presidency, we are FUCKED for generations. Stare decisis, doncha know.

    "I feel a lot safer already."--Emil Sitka

    by DaddyO on Sat May 31, 2014 at 05:43:07 PM PDT

  •  Who is watching your grandpa or your toddler? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jfdunphy

    And are you paying them enough? That's the question. There are elder-care agencies that are paid by Social Security or Medicare/Medicaid because it's cheaper than putting the old people in a hospital or a nursing home. Then there are babysitters/childcare workers who watch pre-schoolers or infants. What are they worth?

    Should home care workers be paid minimum wage? Should minimum wage be raised? Should they have unions?

    I'd say yes, yes, and yes.

    "Stupid just can't keep its mouth shut." -- SweetAuntFanny's grandmother.

    by Dbug on Sat May 31, 2014 at 09:57:51 PM PDT

    •  And another thing (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jfdunphy

      that I just thought of. If the state tells a single mother that she can't get food stamps unless she gets a job, then the state should damn well pay for childcare. And the childcare workers should get a decent wage.

      "Stupid just can't keep its mouth shut." -- SweetAuntFanny's grandmother.

      by Dbug on Sat May 31, 2014 at 10:04:00 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  This case is much larger than just these workers (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jfdunphy

    An anti-union ruling in this case could very well decimate state employee unions, many of whom rely upon the "fair share" system to be able to operate. All state workers in union positions pay union dues, regardless of whether they ae actually a member. Union membership entitles the employee to vote in union elections and serve in union positions and committees, such as collective bargaining.

    The fair share members benefit from the work of the union through collective bargaining and union representation regardless of whether the become active union members. The unions is required to provide representation when the member needs it.

    Without the fair share system, state employee union dues may drop by 30% or more, forcing small unions to either go out of business or raise dues on remaining members (which is the third rail).  Larger unions may fare better, but the whole system will be hamstrung by people benefitting from the union's work without paying dues if this ruling goes bad.

    This is a far more dangerous case than people realize, and it could seriously be a death knell for public employee unions if fair share is ruled unconstitutional.

  •  Plaintiff loses. If it is a non right to work s... (0+ / 0-)

    Plaintiff loses. If it is a non right to work state. If the legislature passed the law authorizing the union and accepted the contract with the workers including fair share fees it is clear that it is a fair deal. Home care workers are free to seek a different employer.

  •  Plaintiff loses. The union laws have been passe... (0+ / 0-)

    Plaintiff loses. The union laws have been passed in non right to work states. Fair share dues have been included as part of the union contracts. These contracts were negotiated by the unions on behalf of the workers and approved by the state legislatures.

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