On the U.S. Supreme Court’s Decision in Harris v. Quinn

NELP Decries Decision Diluting Home Care Workers’ Fundamental Workplace Bargaining Capacity

Washington, DC – By a 5-4 vote, the U.S. Supreme Court today held in Harris v. Quinn that the State of Illinois cannot require home care workers who object to joining a union democratically elected by their colleagues to pay a fair-share fee for the benefits they receive from that representation.

“In a majority opinion that parses the relationship between the ‘customer’ receiving care, the personal assistant providing the care, and the state paying for the care, the court’s holding that non-members may not be required to pay a fair-share fee does not reflect an even balancing of the scales of justice. Instead, on every question, the court elevated the interests of the minority objecting to paying their fair share over those of the majority who had democratically elected a union and the State that had concluded this form of representation was in the best interest of all parties,” said Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project.

“In dismissing the role the fair-share fee plays in advancing important economic and health care interests in Illinois and elsewhere, the court showed indifference to how labor-management relations can be properly and lawfully constructed to promote meaningful worker input into issues affecting their employment and the service they provide,” continued Owens. “And in distinguishing between ‘full-fledged’ public employees and workers paid by the state to care for private citizens, the court completely ignores the growth and evolution of the home care labor force and the importance of ensuring adequate protections for workers who provide extraordinary service. Far from helping to create good jobs and provide good care for the elderly and disabled, the court’s decision will make it harder to achieve these important societal and economic objectives.

“Public sector workers like the home care workers in Illinois will continue to pull together and fight for good jobs and quality care, but undermining their capacity to achieve full and fair representation for all within the bargaining unit will compromise working conditions and the quality of care in this fast-growing sector.”

In the meantime, NELP called on the administration to hold to its promise to the 2.5 million home care workers still waiting for basic fair-pay protections.

“The Obama administration should reaffirm its commitment to protecting the rights of home care workers and the communities they serve by sticking to its previously announced January 1, 2015 implementation date for the long-awaited federal companionship worker regulations,” said Owens. “These new rules finally extend basic federal minimum wage and overtime protections to the millions of workers who care for seniors and people with disabilities living independently in their homes. Any delay of their implementation is simply unacceptable.”

Emma Stieglitz
(646) 200-5307

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