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Will Supreme Court Protect Workers' Rights against Union-Government Collusion?

June 9, 2014 in Economics

By Ilya Shapiro

Ilya Shapiro

Those who support the power of unions and governments over the rights of workers are scared of the Supreme Court’s imminent ruling in Harris v. Quinn, in which a group of home health aides challenge an Illinois law that compels them to join a union and pay dues.

For example, Prof. John Logan in The Hill’s Contributors blog on May 29 began his analysis of Harris by attacking the workers’ lawyers as “extremist” and warned that “a sweeping ruling against agency fee agreements in the public sector in Harris v. Quinn would be an extreme and blatantly political act.”

If affirmed, the lower court’s decision would enable politicians and labor leaders to conspire in circumventing the First Amendment’s limitations on compelled speech and association to bolster the ranks and finances of organized labor.”

What’s going on here? Are these personal-care assistants, most of whom tend to their own disabled family members, possessed of a false consciousness, selling out their comrades on behalf of some corporate exploiter?

Not quite. All they want is to be free from having to subsidize the speech and activities of the Service Employees International Union. Indeed, there’s no business or corporate interest here at all: The workers who brought the lawsuit are independent contractors whose “boss” is the person they’re caring for. But don’t take my word for it; under Illinois law, the disability program participant, or “customer,” is “the employer of the PA [personal assistant]” and “is responsible for controlling all aspects of the employment relationship between the customer and the PA, including, without limitation, locating and hiring the PA, training the PA, directing, evaluating and otherwise supervising the work performed by the PA, imposing … disciplinary action against the PA, and terminating the employment relationship between the customer and the PA.”

Nonetheless, while expressly preserving customers’ rights to hire and fire their aides, the Illinois legislature in 2003 labeled PAs as “public employees …. [s]olely for the purposes of coverage under the Illinois Public Labor Relations Act,” which provides for collective bargaining. The state then designated SEIU as their exclusive representative and entered into a collective-bargaining agreement requiring all aides to remit union fees.

The Supreme Court did uphold, in the 1977 case of Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, the constitutionality of compulsory dues to finance a public-sector union, finding that the government interest in “labor peace”—preventing massive unrest caused by workers’ differing views—justified the infringement of dissenters’ associational and expressive …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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