The Supreme Court issued its decision in Harris v. Quinn. In a 5-4 decision, the conservative majority of the Court dealt a blow to the partnership forged between the State of Illinois and homecare workers through SEIU Health Care Illinois-Indiana. In a closely divided ruling, the Court overruled the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals and held that the First Amendment bars Illinois homecare workers from adopting a fair share requirement to ensure that everyone shares in the costs of the bargaining.
The Court did not go so far as to overrule the 1977 Supreme Court decision in Abood v. Detroit Board of Education. This means that ‘traditional’ public employees can continue to join together in a union and retain the right to negotiate a fair share contract provision. Some legal experts warn, however, that such a challenge is only a matter of time.
The International Union’s press release on the decision is reprinted below:
Home Care Workers Vow to Stand Up for Good Jobs and Quality Home Care in Wake of Harris v. Quinn Ruling
Caregivers to Work with States and Consumers to Ensure a Strong Voice for Care
WASHINGTON, DC – Home care workers and consumers are ready to stand up for quality home care in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Harris v. Quinn today.
“No court case is going to stand in the way of home care workers coming together to have a strong voice for good jobs and quality home care,” said SEIU President Mary Kay Henry. “At a time when wages remain stagnant and income inequality is out of control, joining together in a union is the only proven way home care workers have of improving their lives and the lives of the people they care for.”
The ruling places at risk a system of consumer-directed home care in Illinois that has proven successful in raising wages, providing affordable health care benefits, and increasing training. The number of elderly Americans will increase dramatically in the coming years. States need to build a stable, qualified workforce to meet the growing need for home care—and having a strong union for home care workers is the only approach that has proven effective.
“I count on my home care provider for so much—I wouldn’t be able to work or get through the day without her,” said Rahnee Patrick, a home care consumer and advocate from ACCESS Living in Chicago.” “I’m worried that I could lose her if her wages and benefits don’t keep up with the cost of living.”
The case was brought by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, an extreme anti-worker group whose funders include billionaires like Charles Koch and the Walton family. It is the latest in a decades-long attack on the rights of working people to join together to improve their jobs and the quality of services they provide.
“They are trying to divide us and limit our power, but we won’t stop standing together for our families and our consumers” said Flora Johnson, a home care provider from Chicago. “Before we formed our union, I made less than $6 an hour, but by uniting we are set to make $13 an hour by the end of the year. I know from experience that we are stronger together.”
“For our parents and grandparents to get the care they need to live at home, workers need a strong voice in a union,” Henry said. “I know that Flora Johnson other SEIU members are determined to keep up the fight to end poverty wages and ensure quality care.”