Last week, the Supreme Court ruled in Harris v. Quinn, a case out of Illinois which focused on whether the state can compel home health workers to support a a union. (See WICs article, "Supreme Court Hears Illinois Union Case Centered on Home Health Aides", January 22, 2014 for a complete summary of the case.) Briefly, the governor of Illinois issued an executive order that resulted in home care workers being required to pay union fees. Workers could opt out of joining the union, but would still be compelled to pay dues. A class action lawsuit was brought against the state on behalf of affected workers, arguing that the executive order violated their first amendment rights to freedom of association and freedom of speech.
In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that the state "may not force every person who benefits from this [union's] efforts to make payments to the [union]". Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote the Court's majority opinion, said that these workers lacked the "full scope of powers" typically afforded to union members, and thus should not be required to pay the fees. Though they may be considered to be jointly employed by the state, home health workers often do not receive the same benefits as other state employees, including paid vacation time, health insurance, and other workplace protections.
In the dissent, Justice Elena Kagen noted that the union had negotiated with the state for increased wages and better benefits for home health workers, and said that fair-share fees should apply to these workers the same way they do for other types of workers. Despite this, she did express that she was pleased that the majority opinion was narrow and rejected the creation of a "right-to-work regime for all government employees".
ANCOR has been following this story closely, and is pleased that the Court recognizes it would be inappropriate to compel union dues from this class of direct care workers.