June 29, 2014
Sleeper SCOTUS decision could devastate unions
By Thomas Lifson
Almost everyone paying attention to politics knows about the Hobby Lobby case, due for a Supreme Court decision as soon as Monday. But a more obscure case due for a decision, Harris v Quinn, has the potential to rock the union movement to its foundations. Tim Devaney of The Hill explains:
The Supreme Court will make its most important ruling in labor law in decades next week when it weighs in on a right-to-work case that could determine whether non-union workers can be compelled to pay public sector union dues.
Courts for years have recognized the rights of unions to ask non-members to pay dues for union negotiating costs, but a group of home healthcare workers in Harris vs. Quinn are challenging dues they pay to a branch of the Service Employees International Union as a violation of free speech. (snip)
…labor giants like the SEIU…worry the court could rule broadly to prevent all non-members of public sector unions from being compelled to pay dues.
Such a decision from the court, which is expected to rule on Monday, could deliver a “kill shot” to organized labor at a time when it is already struggling with a declining membership.
Still, some labor supporters say they’re anticipating a loss.
“I expect the worst,” said Ross Eisenbrey, vice president of the progressive Economic Policy Institute.
The case was brought by Pamela Harris, who receives money from the state of Illinois to take care of her son.
Workers like Harris were once seen as independent contractors, but Illinois’s legislature in 2003 passed a law deeming them public employees. This forced people like Harris to have fees from their Medicare checks withheld as payment to the SEIU, which had the responsibility of representing all workers who were subject to the 2003 law.
I have my fingers crossed on this one. I have never forgotten being forced to pay substantial “initiation fees” and dues to two corrupt labor unions (The Teamsters and the now-defunct American Bakery and Confectionary Workers), both of which were eventually taken over by the federal government on corruption charges, in order to take summer jobs while in college. In both instances, the union stewards were goons, and the amount of money extorted from me was painful. It felt like, and was, an extortion racket.
It is outrageous that people caring for family members in their own homes should be extorted in this way. Even worse, a large portion of their dues goes to the Democrats.
In a bizarre twist, Justice Scalia could turn out to be the unions’ savior:
Conservative Justice Antonin Scalia could prove to be the swing vote, experts say.
In a 1991 Supreme Court case, Scalia argued it is reasonable for unions to collect fees from non-union members to cover their negotiating costs. Then, during oral arguments for Harris vs. Quinn in January, Scalia's questions led some believe he is leaning in this direction once again.
Eisenbrey [VP of the Progressive Policy Institute] called Scalia “the hope.