* Nina Totenburg reports on yesterday’s US Supreme Court hearing…
At issue: whether nonunion members can be required to pay fees to help cover the cost of negotiating a contract from which they benefit.
In Illinois 10 years ago, 28,000 home health workers who care for adults with disabilities approved a union. Since then, hourly wages have nearly doubled, the workers now receive regular training, and they have health insurance. The state says as a result, the workforce has been stabilized and professionalized, and the government has saved money by keeping adults with disabilities in their homes.
Some workers, however, object to paying what is known as “fair share” fees. That is, even though they haven’t joined the union, they are required to pay their fair share of the costs of negotiating and administering a union contract they benefit from. The Supreme Court has long allowed such fees to prevent nonmembers from free-riding on union members’ dues. But in recent years, some of the court’s conservatives have suggested they may be prepared to reverse this long-established principle. And Tuesday’s case presents that opportunity.
The state says it actually has saved $632 million by creating a stable workforce to care for adults with disabilities in their homes instead of nursing homes.
One of the questions before the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday is whether non-union members must pay for negotiating a contract they benefit from. […]
And the workers and their patients say the union has transformed a program that previously had been hobbled by rapid turnover.
“I have a son that has cerebral palsy,” said Flora Johnson, a home care worker who serves on the union’s executive committee. “They tried to get me to institutionalize him years ago. But by the union coming in, he got a chance to stay home with his family.”
* LA Times…
In its lawsuit, the right-to-work attorneys portrayed the arrangement as a questionable deal between state Democrats led by former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and union officials. Alito picked up on the theme.
“Gov. Blagojevich got a huge campaign contribution from the union and, virtually as soon as he got into office, he took out his pen and signed an executive order that had the effect of putting $3.6 million in the union coffers,” Alito told U.S. Solicitor Gen. Donald Verrilli Jr., who joined in defending Illinois. The judge was referring to the $3.6 million in dues paid to SEIU after home-care providers were organized.
Verrilli denied that partisan politics were at play, noting that a “large bipartisan majority” of the Illinois Legislature voted in favor of the decision to extend union bargaining rights to the home-care providers.
The measure passed 51-2-5 in the Senate (Barack Obama voted “Present,” Dan Rutherford voted “No” and Kirk Dillard voted “Yes”) and 115-0 in the House.
* But Gov. Quinn expanded the scope of that legislation with an executive order in 2009.
In 2009, Governor Pat Quinn issued an executive order directing the State to recognize an exclusive representative for the Disabilities Program personal assistants, if a majority so chose. In a mail ballot election, however, a majority of the approximately 4,500 Disabilities Program personal assistants rejected representation by any union. Nevertheless, a union can request new elections in the future, and, under Illinois labor law, may bypass an election altogether if it collects a sufficient number of union cards from the personal assistants.
In 2010, personal assistants from both groups filed a two-count complaint against the Governor and the three unions involved. The Rehabilitation Program plaintiffs claimed that the fair share fees they were required to pay violated the First Amendment by compelling their association with, and speech through, the union. The Disabilities Program plaintiffs argued that although they did not yet pay fees, they are harmed by the threat of an agreement requiring fair share fees. The district court dismissed the Rehabilitation Program plaintiffs’ claims for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. It dismissed the Disabilities Program plaintiffs’ claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because they lacked standing and their claims were not ripe.
The Seventh Circuit Decision
Writing for a unanimous panel, Judge Manion held that, with respect to the Rehabilitation Program plaintiffs, the fair-share fees withstand First Amendment scrutiny, in that they are, for First Amendment purposes, identical to the fees upheld by the Supreme Court in Abood v. Detroit Bd. of Educ.
Note that personal assistants from both groups of personal assistants have filed suit. Why is that important? Well, let’s revisit Tom Cross’ press release from yesterday…
“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.”
From the bill Rep. Cross voted for in 2003…
Provides that a labor organization recognized by Executive Order to represent personal care attendants or personal assistants shall be the exclusive representative of those individuals.