Supreme Court Ruling in Harris v Quinn May Reduce Power of Unions
The Supreme Court ruled Monday that certain public sector employees who benefit from a labor union's representation will no longer have to pay union fees.
According to the decision in Harris v. Quinn, written by Justice Alito, unions can now only take dues from full state employees, not "partial public employees" - people that may be employed by an individual but who are paid by the state, like the Illinois home health care workers in the case. Illinois is one of 26 states that requires public sector workers to pay partial dues to unions. A 5-4 majority of the Court, however, found that such a requirement, as applied to "partial public employees," violates the First Amendment. Justice Kagan wrote a dissenting opinion, joined by Justice Ginsburg, Justice Breyer, and Justice Sotomayor.
The Harris decision will affect around 26,000 home care workers who are paid with Medicaid funds, as well as their patients. In the 10 years since home healthcare workers have been allowed to unionize in Illinois, there have been not only significant improvements in their working conditions but also significant improvements in training. "Wages have nearly doubled, from $7 to $13 an hour; training and supervision has increased, as well as standardization of qualifications, and workers now have health insurance," reported NPR's Legal Affairs Correspondent Nina Totenberg in January.
The ruling in Harris is expected to lead to a large loss of union members and therefore a loss of union services that improve working conditions for all people in the union industries, like negotiating contracts and providing legal representation for grievances.
Fortunately, the Supreme Court did not strike down Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, a 1977 case that allows public sector unions to require fees from nonmembers who benefit from the union's representation.
Media Resources: NPR 6/30/14; SCOTUSblog 6/30/14; Politico 6/30/14; New York Times 6/30/14
7/23/2014 Campaign Against Colorado Personhood Initiative Launches - Women's rights organizations, medical groups, and religious leaders joined several activists yesterday at a rally on the steps of the Colorado state capitol to launch a campaign against a new personhood initiative on the state's November ballot.
The No on 67 campaign opposes Amendment 67, otherwise known as the Brady Amendment, a proposed constitutional amendment that would change the definition of "person" and "child" in the Colorado Criminal Code and Wrongful Death act to include "unborn human beings." A similar initiative was on the ballot in 2008 and 2010, but it was defeated both times by a wide margin.
If passed, the amendment would have extreme repercussions, banning abortion in all cases, emergency contraception and birth control, and possibly in-vitro fertilization. . . .