Home health care worker Deborah Hibbler, left, brushes Gail Smith's hair in Smith's North Sacramento home. Smith has disabilities that limit her ability to raise her arms or walk long distances.
The Supreme Court stuck it to home-care workers Monday in a ruling in Harris v. Quinn,
by Laura Clawson. The case arose over the fact that non-union workers covered by union contracts must pay "fair share fees" to help cover the union's cost associated with guaranteeing benefit, including higher wages, to all workers covered by those contracts.
But, speaking for the 5-4 majority, Justice Samuel Alito cut home healthcare workers paid via Medicaid out of the picture. The Court said these "partial public employees" cannot be required to contribute union bargaining fees. It could have been worse. They ruling could have been written to apply to all public sector workers instead of just one of the most vulnerable, lowest-paid groups.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said:
The extreme views of today’s Supreme Court aimed at home care workers aren’t just bad for unions—they’re bad for all workers and the middle class. But the attacks on the freedom of workers to come together are nothing new. They are part of an onslaught from anti-worker organizations hostile to raising wages or improving benefits for millions of people. These attacks are a direct cause of an economy in which middle-class families can’t get a break because their wages have stagnated and their incomes have declined.
Home care is one of the fastest growing industries. Its workers do backbreaking, thankless work, often for low wages. By forming a union these workers are helping to combat income inequality and the rise of low wage jobs, ensuring that these are good jobs with good benefits.
Center for American Progress President Neera Tanden said
in a statement:
Today’s Harris v. Quinn decision is the latest Roberts Court attack on important protections for hard-working Americans that sides with wealthy special interests in weakening worker protections. This decision may be limited to those who the Supreme Court deems not fully public-sector workers, but it is clear the Court is willing to wield the First Amendment as a weapon to hurt workers. The Harris v. Quinn decision is a blow to working families; at a time when wages are stagnant, weakening worker protections is the exact opposite of what we should be doing. Today’s decision will strengthen our resolve to ensure that middle-class families have a strong voice for good jobs and workplace protections.
Taking note of the terrible Hobby Lobby ruling also issued Monday:
so this morning SCOTUS rules on low-wage working women and half the media will act like the two cases are unconnected.
There are more responses below the orange tangle.
Alliance for Justice President Nan Aron issued the following statement:
This decision is a setback not only for workers who do some of the most important jobs in America—caring for the ill and the elderly in their own homes – but also for those they care for. When health care workers do their jobs in a publicly run institution, such as a hospital or a nursing home, there is no question that they are public employees. That should not change just because the state pays those same workers to work in the home, thereby encouraging a more humane, less expensive option.
Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project
In dismissing the role the fair-share fee plays in advancing important economic and health care interests in Illinois and elsewhere, the court showed indifference to how labor-management relations can be properly and lawfully constructed to promote meaningful worker input into issues affecting their employment and the service they provide,” continued Owens. “And in distinguishing between ‘full-fledged’ public employees and workers paid by the state to care for private citizens, the court completely ignores the growth and evolution of the home care labor force and the importance of ensuring adequate protections for workers who provide extraordinary service. Far from helping to create good jobs and provide good care for the elderly and disabled, the court’s decision will make it harder to achieve these important societal and economic objectives.
Paul Kersey is the director of labor policy at the Illinois Policy Institute, which filed a amicus brief in Harris
favoring the anti-union side. He laid out the long-term goal in an op-ed
Harris' attorneys were hoping the court would rule that no government employee can be forced to pay dues as a condition of employment.
The court instead opted for a stern warning that unions have no business extracting dues from people who aren't even employees. Union officials should take heed: the U.S. Supreme Court is putting more limits on mandatory union dues. Soon, the high court may rightly decide that forced dues are unconstitutional and do away with them entirely.
That's what they want. Well, what they really want is not just to get rid of the 79-year-old Wagner Act that guarantees basic organizing rights to private-sector workers, including the right to strike. But even given the weakness of unions today—a weakness exacerbated by considerable indifference about unionization among far too many liberals—the anti-worker forces know they can't destroy organized labor all at once. But piecemeal will do the job effectively if they aren't stopped.