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Friday, October 28, 2016

By David G. Savage, Tribune Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court dealt a setback to the union movement Monday, ruling personal home care employees cannot be forced to pay dues to a union.

In a 5-4 ruling written Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., the court said these employees, some of whom care for their disabled children at home, have a constitutional right not to support a union they oppose.

The decision is a victory for the National Right to Work Foundation, which took up the cause of several mothers who objected to paying union fees. It is a defeat for Service Employees International Union and Illinois Governor Pat Quinn.

Beginning in 2003, Illinois officials agreed to deem these home care workers “public employees” because they are paid with Medicaid funds to care for disabled adults. That cleared the way for the SEIU to organize them into a union.

Union officials say they have won higher wages and better benefits for 20,000 of these home care assistants in Illinois. But anti-union lawyers sued the state, arguing these private assistants are not truly public employees and should not be compelled to pay fees to a union.

In keeping its ruling narrow, the court refrained from dealing an even greater setback to unions. Some had urged the court to rule that all public employees have a right to opt out of paying union dues, reversing its 1977 ruling that upheld mandatory union fees.

By law, public employees cannot be required by law to join a union and pay full dues as members. These dues may pay for lobby and political spending.

But since 1977, the high court had upheld so-called “fair share” fees that require all the employees to pay a lesser amount to cover the cost of collective bargaining.

In recent years, however, more conservative justices raised doubts about whether the practice violated the First Amendment. They argued that the government usually cannot force individuals to support private groups, yet the mandatory fees forced some government employees to support organizations they opposed.

In the Illinois case, known as Harris v. Quinn, the National Right to Work Foundation urged the justices to either limit who can be forced to support a union or to strike down mandatory fees entirely.

A ruling casting doubt on mandatory fees could have a significant effect in Democratic-leaning states, which authorize unions and mandatory fees. These so-called blue states are in the Northeast, the Upper Midwest and on the West Coast. Most of the Republican-leaning red states in the South and the Great Plains have “right to work” laws that allow employees to opt out of unions.

AFP Photo/Saul Loeb

  • John Pigg

    It’s disappointing how anti-Union the United States is becoming.

  • Midway54

    The plutocrats, their propagandists and the mentally challenged crackpots and dupes are ecstatic.
    Our neofascist Plutocracy is alive, well, and increasingly stronger.

  • Echo Moon

    if they don’t have to pay full union fees then they should not be allowed to gain any of the union benefits!!!

  • howa4x

    The corporations won the hears and mindless. This is part of the republican anti union agenda and it sends a clear message about what will happen when they take over. Worker protections and women’s rights will be gone. This is the clearest case of people working against themselves and their family interests. Next corporations will be free to pay differently to non union members and deny benefits like healthcare. If I was the union president I would march into the CEO’s office and say my negotiation is for union members only and you can treat non union members anyway you want to.

  • Yappy2

    These people that want the Union to represent them and not pay dues are a bunch of ugly leaching scabs.

  • 1guy2

    No one is forcing them to pay union dues. That’s their choice you’re iether in or out. but unions are not frrebies.