Harris v. Quinn
On January 21, 2014, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Harris v. Quinn, a case from Illinois challenging the forced unionization of personal care attendants. The petitioners/plaintiffs include Pam Harris and eight other women who care for relatives with disabilities under two Illinois Medicaid waiver programs.
One group of personal assistants, who work for people with disabilities in the Rehabilitation Program waiver were unionized by SEIU through a card check executive order issued in 2003 by now-disgraced former governor Rod Blagojevich. SEIU reached an agreement with the state which required nonmembers to pay a "fair share" fee to SEIU for the union's "representation," even if the personal assistants opposed such involuntary representation.
In 2009, Governor Pat Quinn issued an executive order subjecting another group of personal assistants in the Disabilities Program waiver to a unionization election.
SEIU and AFSCME competed to represent this group of personal assistants. Pam Harris and other Disabilities Program personal assistants fought back and won the election by a margin of 2–1. Nonetheless, Governor Quinn's executive order is still in force and the unions can continue to seek to subject these personal assistants to a unionization election at any time.
Represented by the National Right To Work Legal Defense Foundation, Pam Harris and the other petitioners are arguing that the forced unionization scheme, by making a labor union the "exclusive representative" of all personal assistants regardless of whether they want to be so represented, violates their First Amendment right to choose their representatives in petitioning the government, and that unionization of PCAs is not collective bargaining, but forced lobbying.
Facts and Refutation of SEIU Claims
Through these forced unionization schemes, SEIU and AFSCME have looted over $100 million dollars per year—roughly $60 million per year in California alone—in union dues and fees from Medicaid waiver programs intended to enable people with disabilities to live independently and stay out of institutions.
Unionization can endanger the ability of people with disabilities to live independently and stay out of nursing homes and other institutions. SEIU, along with a number of disability rights organizations which receive large amounts of money from the union, is claiming that if Pam Harris and the other petitioners are successful, that attendant care for people with disabilities will be harmed and people who now live independently will wind up institutionalized. Exactly the opposite is true. E-mails between the Connecticut Department of Social Services and Governor Dannel Malloy's office uncovered through a Freedom of Information Act request demonstrate that by adding to the cost structure of attendant care, unionization often leads to employers with disabilities exceeding caps placed on cost of services which can result in either not enough hours of care or people being forced off the Medicaid waivers and into nursing homes.
Unionization is vigorously opposed by people with disabilities who employ PCAs, not just parents who care for their children on these Medicaid waivers. In their amicus supporting their SEIU benefactors, the previously referenced disability organizations claim that Harris v. Quinn is about people with disabilities who support unionization against parents "who are understandably paternalistic toward their (disabled or nondisabled) adult children." This insulting claim runs totally counter to the strenuous efforts by people with disabilities and their PCAs against forced unionization in several states, including Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Montana. Recently, ADAPT publicly burnt its "Guiding Principles" agreement it had previously made with SEIU outside of the union's headquarters after both SEIU and AFSCME lobbied for labor rules that would threaten to "require seniors and people with disabilities to bring strangers into their homes, force others into institutions, and reduce the take home pay of attendants."
Union "representation" interferes with the independent living model by putting an intrusive third party in the middle of the intimate relationship between an employer with a disability and his or her caregivers. It frequently winds up making the lives of both PCAs and their employers with disabilities harder. This is particularly true with regard to union-promoted training requirements. For example, in Washington, SEIU has sponsored two ballot measures requiring PCAs to get 75-hours of one-size-fits-all training. A major problem with centralized training is that attendant care is highly individualized and each person with a disability has unique needs and idiosyncrasies. One person may require deep suctioning, while another may need assisted cough, and the difference can be a matter of life and death. The employer with the disability needs to have exclusive control over training and should not be burdened with the task of un-training and re-training a mis-trained attendant. SEIU has proposed a similar 75-hour forced training ballot measure in California, and the disability community is organizing in opposition.
Indeed, a solid case can be made that the forced unionization of PCAs violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. While this argument is not being made in Harris v. Quinn, it has been included in at least one other case against forced unionization. By taking away full employer status from employers with disabilities who hire PCAs and turning these PCAs into state employees for the ostensible purpose of collective bargaining, these unionization laws and executive orders discriminate against employers with disabilities. No other similarly situated employers have their right to control their employment relationships so compromised by our laws. And to the extent that that unionization endangers the right of people with disabilities to live independently and not be forced into institutions, it violates the Supreme Court's decision in Olmsted v. L.C., which interpreted the ADA as requiring that people with disabilities be offered to live in the least restrictive setting.
Harris v. Quinn Videos
Full list of briefs at SCOTUS Blog: http://www.scotusblog.com/case-files/cases/harris-v-quinn
Brief for petitioners: http://onlabor.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/11-681ts.pdf
Reply brief for petitioners: http://onlabor.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/11-681rb.pdf
Amicus of family chilldcare provider associations: http://onlabor.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/11-681-tsac-family-child-care-inc-et-al.pdf
Amicus of Cato Institute and National Federation of Independent Business: http://onlabor.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/amicus-brief-the-cato-institute-nfib.pdf
Amicus of Macinac Center for Public Policy: http://onlabor.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/11-681-tsac-family-child-care-inc-et-al.pdf
Amicus of Illinois Policy Institute: http://onlabor.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/amicus-brief-illinois-policy-institute.pdf
Amicus of Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, Pacific Legal Foundation, and Atlantic Legal Foundation: http://onlabor.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/amicus-brief-center-for-constitutional-jurisprudence.pdf
Amicus of plaintiffs and co-counsel in Frederichs v. California Teachers Association http://onlabor.files.wordpress.com/2013/11/amicus-brief-ca-public-school-teachers-et-al.pdf
News Stories, Opinion, and Blog Posts
Ed Morrissey - Hot Air, January 21, 2014
George Will - Washington Post, January 17, 2014
WLS-TV 7 - January 16, 2014
Library of Law and Liberty - January 6, 2014