Supreme Court Sides with Radical Right in Illinois Home Care Worker Case

In a 5-to-4 decision today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Illinois home care workers who benefit from higher wages and better working conditions that their union negotiated for—but who choose not to join—do not have to pay their fair share of the cost of the union’s bargaining for and representation of all workers.

Text STRENGTH to 235246 to fight back against these attacks on working families.

The suit was filed in 2010 by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, an extreme anti-worker group whose funders include billionaires like the Charles Koch Charitable Foundation and the Walton Family [of Walmart] Foundation. But the suit was dismissed first by a federal district court and then again on appeal by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court agreed to hear it in October. Said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka:

The extreme views of today’s Supreme Court aimed at home care workers aren’t just bad for unions—they’re bad for all workers and the middle class. But the attacks on the freedom of workers to come together are nothing new. They are part of an onslaught from anti-worker organizations hostile to raising wages or improving benefits for millions of people. These attacks are a direct cause of an economy in which middle-class families can’t get a break because their wages have stagnated and their incomes have declined.

Read his full statement here.

Unions are required to represent and spend resources representing all workers in a bargaining unit when negotiating wages, benefits and working condition. This includes workers who choose not to join the union.

A majority of Illinois home care workers who tend to the needs of seniors and people with disabilities chose to be represented by SEIU in 2003 and since then have seen significant increases in their wages and improvements in their other working conditions through the union’s collective bargaining.

Said Flora Johnson, a home care provider from Chicago:

They are trying to divide us and limit our power, but we won’t stop standing together for our families and our consumers. Before we formed our union, I made less than $6 an hour, but by uniting we are set to make $13 an hour by the end of the year. I know from experience that we are stronger together.

The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and other extremist groups, such as the as American Legislative Exchange Council, were hoping for a decision that applied to all public-sector workers. The ruling made a distinction between home care workers calling them “partial public employees” as opposed to “full fledged” public employees such as firefighters, teachers and others. In her dissent, Justice Elena Kagan wrote:

The good news out of this case is clear: The majority declined that radical request.

AFSCME represents home care and child care workers in several states, and AFSCME President Lee Saunders said the ruling “places at risk a system of consumer-directed home care that has proved successful in raising wages, providing affordable care and increasing training....Justice Alito’s opinion made clear that the relentless assault on workers’ rights will not abate.” But he added:

Today’s Supreme Court decision does not dampen the resolve of home care workers and child care providers to come together to have a strong voice for good jobs and to give care to millions of seniors, people with disabilities and children.

Read his full statement here.

AFT President Randi Weingarten said:

The Roberts' court has consistently ruled in favor of corporate interests, while diminishing the rights of labor. This court has built a record of weakening the rights of both voters and working families; no one should be surprised by this decision. While the court upheld the importance of collective bargaining and unions to families and communities, let's be clear that working people, who have aspired to the middle class and tried to make a better life for their families, have taken it on the chin for years. Stagnating wages, loss of pensions and lack of upward mobility have defined the economic distress they have experienced. Today's decision makes it worse.