The United States Supreme Court ruled Monday that workers cannot be forced to pay fees to public sector unions to cover the cost of collective bargaining.
In Harris v. Quinn, an Illinois in-home health care worker sued the state over compulsory union dues. Because she is paid with Medicaid funds, the state considers her a public employee — therefore a member of the Service Employees International Union.
Saying that the dues were forced association and forced speech (prohibited by the First Amendment), Pamela Harris sued Illinois and the SEIU.
In a 5-4 ruling along ideological lines, the court ruled that “partial public employees” like Harris cannot be forced to pay union dues.
The ruling does not extend to all public employees or all unions, but it could.
The DailyKOS, a left-wing political blog, wrote last week, “If, as expected, Judge Alito (arguably the most anti-labor of the five ideologues that currently comprise what pundits blithely characterize as the Supreme Court’s “conservative majority”) issues the opinion in the case of Harris v Quinn on Monday, public sector unions such as the SEIU and AFSCME may very well be wiped out and with them, one of the Democratic Party’s primary sources of financial support and GOTV (Get out the vote) efforts.”
According to the DailyKOS, the court’s ruling would result in a “death spiral” and would dry up financial resources that Democrats rely on. What’s worse, according to the blog, Democrats would have to rely more on Wall Street for financial funding.
Before the ruling Monday, the left were freaking out. Here is an excerpt from DailyKOS:
“Agency fees in principle are important to public employee unions because they’re required by law to bargain for all workers in a unionized setting. If agency fees for non-members are ruled to be a violation of free speech, unions fear they would lose funding, become less effective at bargaining for benefits and, in turn, lose members.”
“A death spiral.”
“One labor official said such a result would bring about “the possible final destruction of the American labor movement.” The official added, “It would cause the death not only of public sector unions and what’s left of private sector unions, but also the Democratic Party,” suggesting that the demise of unions would make Democrats more reliant on Wall Street money.”
So did the SCOTUS give a death blow to the Democrats? No. The Court created an obstacle for unions to expand, but it has not gutted their very existence nor has it cut off funding for the Democrat Party.
But according to Tom Goldstein of SCOTUSBlog: “It remains possible that in a later case the Court will overturn its prior precedent and forbid requiring public employees to contribute to union bargaining. But today it has refused to go that far. The unions have lost a tool to expand their reach. But they have dodged a major challenge to their very existence.”