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What the Supreme Court's Union Dues Ruling Means


RUSH: Now, the other Supreme Court case, Harris v. Quinn, the National Journal, the AP, any number of news agencies have headlined the story thus:  "Supreme Court Just Dealt a Devastating Blow to Public Unions."  Now, even Samuel Alito, Justice Alito, is saying that this is an extremely narrow ruling.  This case concerned the constitutionality of agency fees charged by public sector unions to all workers in a unionized setting.  And this included nonunion members. 

I remember when this story first hit, and I remember talking about it.  The court decided 5-4 that a woman named Pam Harris -- this is an Illinois case -- Pam Harris and parents of disabled children in in-home health care who are not full public employees cannot be compelled to pay union bargaining fees or dues or any of that.  Big Labor overreached trying to get dues and union membership out of people who are doing work that is considered union work but it was parents treating their own at home, their own disabled children, in-home health care.

The court ruled that personal assistants providing home care are much different from public employees. And even from the SCOTUS blog, Supreme Court of the United States blog, the court recognizes a category of partial public employees that cannot be required to contribute union bargaining fees.  Okay, let's go to the Drive-Bys, 'cause they were devastated.  Although it is interesting, whenever there is a 5-4 decision -- and both these rulings today are 5-4 -- whenever there's a 5-4 decision that conservatives win, the Drive-Bys always say, "It's gonna divide the country. It's a great illustration, a great example of how a partisan divide in this country continues to deeply rivet this nation," blah, blah, blah, blah. 

When the left wins a 5-4 decision, it is unquestionably the law of the land, settled law, landmark, you name it, as in the case of Obamacare, was also 5-4.  But with that 5-4 decision, "Well, that didn't divide the country.  That was sweeping, and it was massive, and it was landmark. But these two decisions, well, narrow, they just gonna hasten and deepen the partisan divide.  It's so sad."  It was the Service Employees International Union that was trying to make Pam Harris pay them union dues. 

But now here is Sam Baker and Emma Roller at the National Journal:  "The Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 decision on Monday that mandatory public union dues violate some members' First Amendment rights." In the ruling, "Justice Samuel Alito said that the precedent that had upheld the state of Illinois' right to require membership dues was shaky.

"The case, Harris v. Quinn, involves Pamela Harris, a home-caregiver in Illinois who takes care of her disabled son. Harris is among home caregivers who have decided not to unionize through the Service Employees International Union, opting instead to bargain directly with the Medicaid recipients who decide how much money to allocate to their caregivers." The SEIU, the tentacles are everywhere. These people eeking to even unionize parents offering home care to their own children. 

"The case posed a challenge to so-called 'fair-play fees,' which allow unions to collect dues from employees who aren't in the union but who still benefit from the bargains unions strike with employers."  See?  So the Drive-Bys say already it's unfair.  These people, they're being paid, they're being reimbursed because of what unions have secured for them but yet they don't have to pay any dues. It's totally unfair to the union. 

"In the case of public-sector unions, though, the employer is the government. And for that reason, the challengers in Harris argued, the unions' collective bargaining is inherently a political activity -- unions are essentially lobbying the government. The challengers said allowing public-sector unions to collect fair-play fees is therefore requiring nonunion employees to support political activities they don't necessarily agree with -- a violation of their First Amendment rights."

But the National Journal hopefully, breathlessly says: "There may be one silver lining for public unions, though. The Harris v. Quinn ruling is somewhat narrowly tailored to home caregivers, known as PAs. 'PAs are much different from public employees,' Alito wrote. 'Unlike full-fledged public employees, PAs are almost entirely answerable to the customers and not to the State, do not enjoy most of the rights and benefits that inure to state employees, and are not indemnified by the State for claims against them arising from actions taken during the course of their employment. Even the scope of collective bargaining on their behalf is sharply limited.'"

So despite the National Journal's headline -- which is: "The Supreme Court Just Dealt a Devastating Blow to Public Unions" -- this ruling is pretty narrow.  It's as narrow as it can be.  It only says that public sector unions cannot require dues from employees who are directly answerable to their customers rather than the state, like an in-home caregiver, which was the case here.  This ruling is not going to affect the vast majority of state or federal employees.  


RUSH: This is Bob in Chicago.  Thank you for waiting and welcome to the program.  Hi.

CALLER:  Rush, I'd like to start by saying it truly is an honor for me to speak with you.

RUSH:  Thank you, sir, very much.

CALLER:  I've been listening since 1990.  I'm calling because, you know, here in Illinois, believe it or not, we have some very good local conservative talk shows here.  And since the Harris case came up, which is why I'm calling, since this came up, there have been numerous people from not only the state of Illinois, I don't believe Miss Harris got this letter, and this is what I'm getting to, is a letter that some of these people received.  I think there's about 11 or 12 other states -- I don't know the exact number in the country -- who have been following the same thing Illinois has been doing which has been taking these fees or dues from parents who are taking care of their disabled family members and also receiving some type of -- well, in Miss Harris' case I believe it was Medicaid.

That they had actually received letters stating that the Department of Child and family services could actually come into their home and remove their child from their home if they did not comply with the fees or dues to be paid to the union and take their children and put them in facilities that were unionized to continue the care of their child.  And a lot of this never got national -- I mean, I don't listen to, you know, the national shows all the time.  When I can I do, or cable all the time.  But I've never really seen this brought to anyone's attention.  And going to what you said in the first hour -- well, not the first hour, but the last -- since I've been listening to you, as far as how far these individuals will go to show what power they have or they think they have.

RUSH:  That's power that they want -- (crosstalk)

CALLER:  -- child out of a home --

RUSH:  It's power that they want even if they realize they don't have it.  It's simply never-ending power grabs.

CALLER:  I felt so deeply about calling you today because this morning when the decision came on, I was listening to a local conservative show here, and this came up again about these letters. I kind of forgot about it a little bit, and I'm like, you know, people need to know this kind of thing.  I mean, you say it all the time, and I'm so appreciative of it.  It drives me crazy that they would go to that extreme to threaten that to a parent, whether they could or couldn't do it.  I mean, it's just mind-boggling, and I really wanted to bring it to --

RUSH:  Well, I seem to recall -- you bring this up, I seem to recall reading what you say happened, the threat, the union threat to remove kids and put them in other union-run treatment facilities if these parents didn't cough up dues and essentially engage in behavior that would be tantamount to union membership.  But this kind of power grab is common, and maybe not in this specific way, but just the entire effort here is illustrative of how, particularly the SEIU, but I guess all of them are attempting to collect money, amass power left and right.  They equate themselves with the civil rights movement.  They equate themselves with victims of the founding of the country, the union man, the working man has always been the victim and these major corporations.

There's always the case that they need to be compensated for all of the discrimination they faced and all of the wages that they haven't been paid and all the ways they've been taken advantage of.  I mean, there's real anger at the top.  I don't think that's something that you should ignore.  I mean, not you specifically, but there's rage and anger that is motivating these people in these sweeping attempts.  The Illinois News Network, for example, on June 27th, which was just a few days ago: "Could the State replace Home Caregivers with Union Workers?"  And there's this little passage from the article. 

"Could the state of Illinois remove mothers of disabled children from their roles as caregivers? At least one such mother has already been threatened with that very thing."

And it cites a woman named Deborah Teixeira, who "has cared for her daughter full-time for two decades now, but says the Illinois Department of Rehabilitation Services is threatening to replace her with a state worker."  That could mean removing her relative, simply replace 'cause she's not unionized.  I don't know how common the knowledge is, but you've helped spread the word that this kind of thing was taking place.  I appreciate the call, Bob.  Thanks very much.  



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