Supreme Court Ruling in Harris v Quinn May Reduce Power of Unions
The Supreme Court ruled Monday that certain public sector employees who benefit from a labor union's representation will no longer have to pay union fees.
According to the decision in Harris v. Quinn, written by Justice Alito, unions can now only take dues from full state employees, not "partial public employees" - people that may be employed by an individual but who are paid by the state, like the Illinois home health care workers in the case. Illinois is one of 26 states that requires public sector workers to pay partial dues to unions. A 5-4 majority of the Court, however, found that such a requirement, as applied to "partial public employees," violates the First Amendment. Justice Kagan wrote a dissenting opinion, joined by Justice Ginsburg, Justice Breyer, and Justice Sotomayor.
The Harris decision will affect around 26,000 home care workers who are paid with Medicaid funds, as well as their patients. In the 10 years since home healthcare workers have been allowed to unionize in Illinois, there have been not only significant improvements in their working conditions but also significant improvements in training. "Wages have nearly doubled, from $7 to $13 an hour; training and supervision has increased, as well as standardization of qualifications, and workers now have health insurance," reported NPR's Legal Affairs Correspondent Nina Totenberg in January.
The ruling in Harris is expected to lead to a large loss of union members and therefore a loss of union services that improve working conditions for all people in the union industries, like negotiating contracts and providing legal representation for grievances.
Fortunately, the Supreme Court did not strike down Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, a 1977 case that allows public sector unions to require fees from nonmembers who benefit from the union's representation.
Media Resources: NPR 6/30/14; SCOTUSblog 6/30/14; Politico 6/30/14; New York Times 6/30/14
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .