* Tribune editorial…
“I am not an employee of the state. I work from my home. I don’t want the union in my home. I can Norma Rae with the rest of them.”
That’s the sentiment of Pamela Harris, an Illinoisan who provides care for her disabled son, Joshua. He has a rare condition that causes cognitive and physical impairments. For this function, she and some 20,000 other personal assistants receive stipends from the state through Medicaid.
It’s a good program. The providers save the state money by allowing those in need to live in their own homes rather than public facilities, and participants get to choose those who provide their assistance — often family members.
Harris’ disagreement is with two governors, the General Assembly and the Service Employees International Union. In 2003, the legislature passed a law codifying a policy adopted by Rod Blagojevich classifying the caregivers providing rehabilitation services as state employees for purpose of union representation. They get it from SEIU-Healthcare Illinois & Indiana. Those who don’t want to join the union have to pay dues anyway.
* AFSCME’s Henry Bayer responds via e-mail…
You wouldn’t know it from today’s Tribune, but the named plaintiff in the suit, Pamela Harris, whose right to not pay dues they staunchly defend, doesn’t pay dues.
The caregivers who were granted collective bargaining rights by the Governor’s Executive Order voted against representation. Thus, Harris and all of the other caregivers covered by the Executive Order she contests, pay neither dues nor fees, a fact the Trib either doesn’t know or chooses to ignore. Is it ignorance or malice or both on the part of the editors?
They also ignore the fact that in the public sector employees who choose not to join the union are not required to do so. They pay a fee which excludes any costs associated with political or ideological expenditures and only requires them to pay for the services which the union is legally obligated to provide to them, which included, in the case of Illinois, hefty increases in their abysmally low wages and access to affordable health care.
Ms. Harris could take care of her child and not request or receive pay from the state. Then she would not be eligible for union representation. She could also hire someone to care for her child. She could pay those wages herself, and the individual providing those services would remain outside the purview of the Executive Order.
Finally, they fail to point out that caring for the disabled is a state responsibility
She has chosen to ask the state to pay for her services in the care for her loved one. She was not required by the law to do so, but has understandably exercised that right.
Why would she or the Trib think that she should have the right to receive a state paycheck for her services, but the state should have no right to declare her, or anyone else receiving a state paycheck, a state employee?
Her attitude of entitlement is one I thought the Tribune rejected.
*** UPDATE *** From the Bruce Rauner campaign…
The United States Supreme Court will hear oral arguments today in Harris v. Quinn. In the case, Pam Harris is challenging Illinois’ requirements that home care providers are designated as government employees and forced to provide union dues even though they are hired by the individuals for whom they provide care. Moreover, Harris only provides care for her son.
“People like Pam Harris, who only wants to care for her own child, should not be forced to join and pay into government unions. Her case is a clear example of government union overreach and anyone who wants to be governor of Illinois should make clear where they stand on it,” said Bruce Rauner. “Pam Harris is dedicating her life to her child and she deserves the freedom to decide herself whether or not she joins a government union.”
*** UPDATE 2 *** From a press release…
Illinois State Representative and candidate for Illinois State Treasurer Tom Cross today released the following statement on the United States Supreme Court hearing oral arguments in Harris v. Quinn. The case focuses on challenging executive orders signed by Governors Rod Blagojevich and Pat Quinn that force Illinois home-care workers to join unions, some of which are spending member dues on political causes that are not necessarily supported by the organizations’ membership:
“I believe forcing Illinois home-care workers to join a union and pay labor dues against their will violates both their right to free association and freedom of speech. For too long, the leadership in Illinois has focused on rewarding special interests as opposed to making common sense decisions that are fiscally prudent and defend core individual rights. It is not the job of state government to pick winners and losers, in this case seeking to bolster falling union membership; instead, elected leaders must put the common good before all else. My hope is the Supreme Court hears the arguments in this case and comes to the conclusion that Illinois’ actions are unconstitutional and cannot be allowed to stand.”