The potential effects of an anti-union ruling in Janus v. AFSCME could already be on display in Orange County, where a right-to-work group scored a win involving orientations for new in-home health care aides.
Co-published by International Business Times
Millions of public-sector workers could soon be targeted by conservative groups trying to dissuade them from paying union fees.
In Harris v. Quinn, the Supreme Court held by a 5-4 margin that an “agency shop” requirement—under which unionized public employees must pay their fair share of the costs of negotiating and administering a collective-bargaining agreement whose benefits they enjoy—may not be imposed on homecare workers who are (in the conservative majority’s view) only tenuously employed by the State of Illinois. Doing so, the conservatives held, violates the First Amendment.
The decision creates real obstacles for homecare workers in Illinois, California and other states who wish to have well-funded, effective unions representing them (and who don’t want to have their colleagues free-ride on the dues they pay to support such unions). This was a serious blow for homecare workers, but the obstacles are ones that can be overcome.
The bigger story of Harris v. Quinn is what didn’t happen: the conservative justices did not end fair-share fee arrangements altogether for public-sector workers.
A huge sigh of relief mixed with curses. That’s my reaction to the Supreme Court’s decision today to block home care workers in Illinois from being required to pay union dues, while continuing to allow public employee unions to collect dues from all the workers they represent. The decision in Harris v. Quinn blocks the right-wing assault against one of the most important pillars of progressive infrastructure, public employee unions, but will add to the challenge of raising wages and benefits in the surging low-wage workforce.
First, some background on the case: As part of the right’s ongoing attack on working people, a right-wing legal group recruited a handful of home care workers in Illinois to challenge the state’s requirement that the workers pay union dues.
Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Harris v. Quinn, which settled an Illinois lawsuit filed by the National Right to Work Foundation, did not strike down the ability of all public employee unions to collect fees from workers. It did, however, appear to create a new class of worker – the “partial public employee” – that could seriously hinder those unions’ organizing efforts.
While it remains to be seen exactly how the court’s decision will play out in the months to come, California in-home caregivers and organizations that represent them and their clients vowed today to carry on with their work. On a teleconference held within hours of the court’s ruling, representatives of unions and care recipients spoke of the importance of unions in the transmission of home health care.
“Homecare workers are a classic example of a workforce that needs to bargain collectively,” said Gary Passmore,