CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE SEVENTH CIRCUIT
No. 11–681. Argued January 21, 2014—Decided June 30, 2014
In the 5-4 opinion in the case Harris v. Quinn, the court ruled that the consumer-directed workers in Illinois are merely “partial public employees,” unlike “public school teachers or police officers who work directly for the government,” The New York Times reported.
Illinois’ Home Services Program (Rehabilitation Program) allows Medicaid recipients who would normally need institutional care to hire a “personal assistant” (PA) to provide homecare services. Under State law, the homecare recipients (designated “customers”) and the State both play some role in the employment relationship with the PAs. Customers control most aspects of the employment relationship, including the hiring, firing, training, supervising, and disciplining of PAs; they also define the PA’s duties by proposing a “Service Plan.”
Other than compensating PAs, the State’s involvement in employment matters is minimal. Its employer status was created by executive order, and later codified by the legislature, solely to permit PAs to join a labor union and engage in collective bargaining under Illinois’ Public Labor Relations Act (PLRA).
Pursuant to this scheme, respondent SEIU Healthcare Illinois &Indiana (SEIU–HII) was designated the exclusive union representative for Rehabilitation Program employees. The union entered into collective-bargaining agreements with the State that contained an agency-fee provision, which requires all bargaining unit members who do not wish to join the union to pay the union a fee for the cost of certain activities, including those tied to the collective-bargaining process.
A group of Rehabilitation Program PAs brought a class action against SEIU–HII and other respondents in Federal District Court, claiming that the PLRA violated the First Amendment in so far as it authorized the agency-fee provision. The District Court dismissed their claims, and the Seventh Circuit affirmed in relevant part, concluding that the PAs were state employees within the meaning of Abood v. Detroit Bd. of Ed., 431 U. S. 209.
The Supreme Court ruled on June 30 that home care workers employed in Medicaid-funded consumer-directed care programs in Illinois will not have to pay a “fair share” fee to the labor union representing the workers’ interests if they are not union members.
The case was brought against the state of Illinois by Pamela Harris, a home care worker who provides care to her son with disabilities through the state’s consumer-directed care program.
Harris contended that her free speech rights under the First Amendment were violated by having to pay a fee to the union to which she was not a member.
Such fees, known as “fair share” fees, have been permissible because they cover the union’s collective bargaining and other administration costs that benefit all employees, the Associated Press explains.
In a dissenting opinion, Justice Elana Kagan wrote:
The State could have asserted comprehensive control over all the caregivers’ activities. But because of the personalized nature of the services provided, Illinois instead chose (as other States have as well) to share authority with the customers themselves. The result is that each caregiver has joint employers — the State and the customer — with each controlling significant aspects of the assistant’s work.
But, Kagan concluded, this joint employer relationship should not impact the requirement for fair-share fees from non-union members.
In her opinion, Kagan cites PHI’s amicus brief (pdf) submitted in the case.
An “Unfortunate” Decision
PHI President Jodi Sturgeon called the Court’s decision “unfortunate,” adding that it will “hinder the state’s ability to ensure a sufficient and stable home care workforce for providing essential publicly funded long-term services and supports to people in their homes.”
Most home and community-based services are paid for by the state’s Medicaid program, so the state clearly has a compelling interest in developing and supporting the workforce that provides those services. States need to develop public policies that support good home care jobs and ensure quality care for consumers. Collective bargaining for the workforce has been important for addressing both these issues.
Illinois aides in the consumer-directed programs have seen their wages double as a result of collective bargaining. The quality of care is inextricably linked to quality of home care jobs — these better wages help ensure a stable workforce that can provide the consistent and continuous service elders and people with disabilities want and deserve.
How can families write care plans if they don’t know anything about eldercare? How can the government allow this to continue? Make the family member who would be tasked with writing the care plan take CertifiedCare education for family caregivers programs!