Supreme Court: You Can't Call Homecare Workers Public Employees and Force Unions on Them
June 30, 2014
Before ruling on the Hobby Lobby contraception case, which is probably all you're hearing about right now, the Supreme Court also released a decision on Harris v. Quinn, an important case on public union membership.
In a narrow, partisan, 5-4 ruling, the court determined that Illinois cannot simply declare that home health care workers are public employees on the basis of them receiving government health funding and then force them to pay for union representation. Though this is a blow for unions, the impact is much less than it could have been. The majority did not rule that public employees, as a whole, could not be forced to pay dues to unions to represent them, even if they didn't want to belong to the union. Rather, the court ruled that these previous precedents did not extend to home care workers, who are privately employed, regardless of any government subsidies. Justice Samuel Alito wrote the decision and was joined by justices John Roberts, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas. He takes several paragraphs pointing out that these home workers are hired and paid for by private citizens, not the state of Illinois, and that the petitioners in the case were providing care for family members. They sued, arguing that forcing them to pay union dues was a violation of their First Amendment rights.