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A look at what the Supreme Court could do in Harris v. Quinn

Friday, Jun 27, 2014

* Don Moss sent this out to his members. It’s a pretty good wrap-up, so check it out…

SUPREME COURT DECISION ON HARRIS V. QUINN EXPECTED MONDAY - What started as a relatively minor lawsuit by Pam Harris, a home based parent of a child with severe disabilities in McHenry, Illinois who was fighting an Executive Order by Governor Quinn that would allow for the unionization of parents caring for their children, has taken on major proportions that could affect public employee unions nationwide. As we previously indicated, there are three possible outcomes:

A. The Court could rule that family members can be unionized. If this happens, would those parents become state employees, entitled to collective bargaining, insurance and pensions?

B. The Court could block unionization of family members taking care of their children but do nothing else affecting existing state employees..

C. The Court could bar all government workers from involuntarily having to pay union dues if they choose not to do so–in effect a nationwide right-to-work law. This would be a major change that would affect public school teachers, firemen, police and other government workers on the local, county and state levels.

​We received the following message yesterday from Pam Harris:

    Dear Don,

    So you see, we will learn the Harris v Quinn decision on Monday shortly after 9 am. I have no idea why they are holding it to the last day of their term. It never entered my mind that this case would rocket to such importance.

    I am preparing a statement and will be sure to send it to you as soon as the decision is issued.

    People far smarter than I believe that Justice Alito has written the decision for the majority. This makes it slightly more probable that the decision will favor the Plaintiffs. : )

    But ​I​ have learned long ago that reading tea leaves is an exercise in futility.

    Come Monday, we will know. Then we can hopefully find a way to all move forward.

    With kind regards,

    Pam ​


- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - George Washington - Friday, Jun 27, 14 @ 10:45 am:

    I was under the impression that these family members received a sizable raise after unionization. If so, sometimes people need to be careful what they wish for.

  2. - OneMan - Friday, Jun 27, 14 @ 10:47 am:

    If it is C, watch all hell break lose…

  3. - A guy... - Friday, Jun 27, 14 @ 10:51 am:

    Wait and see is the best policy here. Thanks Don Moss for the summary. You’re a pro’s pro.

  4. - Chi - Friday, Jun 27, 14 @ 10:51 am:

    If (C), Illinois could, should and probably will pass a law stating unions don’t have to represent folks that aren’t members. Florida is “right-to-work” but has a similar law. The legislature could go even farther and say non-members can receive a separate wage rate/salary.

    Both of these steps would minimize the still huge impact a ruling like (C) would have.

  5. - walker - Friday, Jun 27, 14 @ 10:53 am:

    Nice note from Pam. Humble, straightforward, courteous.

    Maybe I’m just jaded by what political types put out.

  6. - A guy... - Friday, Jun 27, 14 @ 11:04 am:

    Agreed, Walk.

  7. - Keyser Soze - Friday, Jun 27, 14 @ 11:05 am:

    Look for a narrowly focused decision favoring the plaintiff but not applicable to the larger groups, i.e., firemen, police, etc. Can’t see Alito rocking the boat too much.

  8. - Todd - Friday, Jun 27, 14 @ 11:19 am:

    The Court is not likely to make a huge change like a watered down right to work (for less) ruling. not what they have been doing. even though they tossed recess appointments, read what the judges said and set the 10 day limit and such. and there was a differance on that.

    My bet here, is that the Court will treat them as independant contractors and not subject to organizing under the Act.

    I don;t think they want to make some wort of Beck type or Moore-Drydock type decision. Look at the gun stuff. They take steps.

    Even if you look to the cell phone case, they made a simple and logical decision. want to look at it, get a warrant.

    Here they looking at a statute and the notion if the Union and the application of the statute. Under the streaming of ntwork news it was an interpretation of copyright and how far that goes.

    I thnk this will be more akin to that one.

    And i think the Unions overeached in this case. They have set up a possible new definition, or clarification on when individuals can fall under a collective bargaining unit and what it the appropriate “bargaining” unit. And I think this overreach is goign to cost them and others.

  9. - Todd - Friday, Jun 27, 14 @ 11:22 am:

    And Chi — Floridia’s law can’t apply to private sector workers and collective bargaining agreements as it is preempted by federal law. if they write in no dies fees or assesments, the union STILL has to represent them under FEDERAL law.

    That is what the Indiana suit is all about using the state constitution ona theft of services without compensation. Pending before the state supreme court.

  10. - Jimbo - Friday, Jun 27, 14 @ 11:22 am:

    The current SCOTUS is an activist court. I can’t see the four conservatives and Kennedy passing up a chance to legislate from the bench. I hope I’m wrong, but I think they’ll go with C.

  11. - Chi - Friday, Jun 27, 14 @ 11:37 am:


    I was speaking specifically re: public employees, as that is what Harris v. Quinn entails. I should have been clearer. The union rights for public employees come purely from state law, and so can be tailored without regard to the NLRA.

  12. - ILPundit - Friday, Jun 27, 14 @ 11:40 am:

    If Alito is writing the majority opinion, and the fact that they’ve held it until the final day of the court session, I’m inclined to predict we will be seeing some form of option C.

  13. - Chi - Friday, Jun 27, 14 @ 11:44 am:

    I have no doubt Alito wants to write some version of C, but I do have doubts he could find a majority willing to go that far with him.

  14. - Jimbo - Friday, Jun 27, 14 @ 11:48 am:

    ILPundit, wait, do we know that Alito is writing for the majority, or is that conjecture?

  15. - Jimbo - Friday, Jun 27, 14 @ 11:49 am:

    Nevermind, I should read better. It is just a rumor though.

  16. - Chi - Friday, Jun 27, 14 @ 11:50 am:

    The conventional wisdom says Alito will write it, because he is the only Justice who hasn’t yet issued an opinion from a case heard in January (Harris was heard in January, and the only January case yet to be decided).

  17. - Chi - Friday, Jun 27, 14 @ 11:50 am:

    Scotusblog says it is “almost certain” that Alito will write Harris because of this distribution of the workload.

  18. - bigdaddygeo - Friday, Jun 27, 14 @ 12:01 pm:

    I think Keyser is right. Kennedy won’t go along with anything that changes the status quo. I don’t think there is a big risk to employee unions. The growth and income for union members are in positions that have state licensing and bachelors or higher education requirements - public school teachers, urban planners, etc. Even if the ruling doesn’t require dues paying, the impact would be small. There isn’t a law that requires CPAs to pay dues to the Illinois Society of CPAs or an architect to pay dues to the Illinois Chapter of AIA. They do it because it is professionally in their interest.

    I think the bigger risk to organized labor is allowing non-traditional “workers” be represented. If a union can represent workers who don’t have regular hours, supervise their own work, provide their own tools and place of work, without a pension plan, or even a steward (how can a union give grievance counsel to a worker who is their own supervisor) then a union can represent what ordinary people call independent contractors. Those home health care workers can vote to decertify and form their own union. WashTech or Programmers Guild would be able to compete with CWA or SEIU for technology members and organize all of the 1099 computer guys CMS has been using for 20 years. And all the while, PQ and MM would be able to smile and say - look these are hard working union members.
    I think that change is the real risk to organized labor.

  19. - Pam Harris - Friday, Jun 27, 14 @ 3:46 pm:

    For the record, the case was filed to achieve B. and it remains my desired outcome. It is also, I think, the most likely.

    George - there are two of IL’s 9 Medicaid waivers involved in Harris v Quinn: Home Services and Home Based. Our son Josh participates in the Home Based waiver and it is not unionized. There was an election shortly after Governor Quinn signed the Executive Order and by 2:1, the unions lost the election. The Home Services program was unionized in 2003 by simple card-check. And although there has a wage increase, the participant criteria was subsequently changed to eliminate many participants and those who remained saw a decrease in their hours of support.

  20. - Grandson of Man - Friday, Jun 27, 14 @ 4:10 pm:

    “For the record, the case was filed to achieve B. and it remains my desired outcome. It is also, I think, the most likely.”

    I wish you success in that outcome. I agree that if a group of people voted to not join a union, as they did in Tennessee with the VW plant, then they should not be forced into a union. It is my understanding that it’s what happened with home healthcare folks.

    As a unionized public employee, I believe that for the rest of us who are already established in unions for which people vote in the majority, the status quo should stand. I hope fervently that this will be the outcome. I believe that because federal law mandates that all people in a unionized jobs must reap the benefits of union contacts, regardless of their opinions about unions, they should pay a fair share dues amount.

    I’m okay with the decision being a “win-win,” so to speak.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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