Harris v. Quinn ruling: Unions hit, but not fatally, by SCOTUS


Politico has the story Harris v. Quinn ruling: Unions hit, but not fatally, by SCOTUS.

By a 5-4 vote, the justices ruled in Harris v. Quinn that home health care workers in Illinois cannot be compelled to pay dues to a union they don’t wish to join.
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Union leaders had feared that the justices might strike down those state laws as unconstitutional. The justices did not go that far. They issued a more narrow ruling that the home health care workers at issue in the case are not “full-fledged public employees” because they are hired and fired by individual patients and work in private homes, though they are paid in part by the state, via Medicaid.


Apparently it is not enough that workers have a vote in what their unions do, if you don’t like how they represent you, then you can refuse to pay for the work they do even though the majority of other workers agree with the union.

Can I refuse to pay the government the taxes that they use for purposes that do not get my approval? Why just limit myself to the specific part of the taxes they use to carry out a policy I don’t like? Why can’t I just refuse to pay all taxes? This seems to be the logic that follows from this decision.

Perhaps only if I refuse to become a full-fledged resident can I avoid paying my taxes.

From the Syllabus of the decision, we have a discussion of a precedent here called Abood:

(3)Extending Abood’s boundaries to encompass partial public employees would invite problems. State regulations and benefits affecting such employees exist along a continuum, and it is unclear at what point, short of full-fledged public employment, Abood should apply. Under respondents’ view, a host of workers who currently receive payments from a government entity for some sort of service would become candidates for inclusion within Abood’s reach, and it would be hard to see where to draw the line. Pp. 27–29


To dig deeper, I’d have to learn exactly what service the union provides the workers. Is the Supreme Court making a value judgment on the service provided versus the payment that is mandated? Is this something a Supreme Court ought to decide?

This all reminds me of some of the lyrics to the song If I Were a Rich Man.

The most important men in town would come to fawn on me!
They would ask me to advise them,
Like a Solomon the Wise.
“If you please, Reb Tevye…”
“Pardon me, Reb Tevye…”
Posing problems that would cross a rabbi’s eyes!


Are the eyes of judges crossed yet?

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