NFIB/RI Hails SCOTUS Ruling on Forced Unionization of Home Care Workers

Date: June 30, 2014

Providence (June 30, 2014) – The US Supreme Court today ruled that Illinois cannot force home care providers to pay labor unions in a decision that the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) said could threaten a similar scheme in Rhode Island.

“If the state can force home health care workers to join unions or pay union dues simply because their clients received public subsidies, then it could eventually try to coerce other types of businesses under the same pretense,” said NFIB State Director Bill Vernon.  “This has major implications for the law for home day care workers in Rhode Island that is modeled after the Illinois law that was struck down today.”

The case, Harris v. Quinn, originated in Illinois and focused on whether states can force non-union home care workers to join labor unions if their clients receive public subsidies to purchase those services.  That’s the basis on which Illinois Governor Pat Quinn issued an executive order in 2003 designating home care workers as “public employees” even though they work for private sector businesses.  Rhode Island and several other states now have similar laws for home day care workers in place. 

“Forcing workers to join unions is fundamentally unfair under any circumstances,” said Vernon.  “But it is absolutely chilling that government can reclassify private sector workers as government workers simply because public money is indirectly involved.”  

The state provides millions in subsidies to hundreds of thousands of residents under hundreds of different programs. They use it to purchase goods and services from private sector businesses of every variety and they’re all private transactions between private citizens and private sector businesses.  Workers in those businesses cannot be forced into unions because of where their customers get their money.

“Only a small fraction of the private sector workforce in Rhode Island is unionized because workers don’t want to join,” said Vernon.  “These laws are a sneaky way for labor unions, through their political allies, to force workers to become union members who would not join voluntarily. But now those laws are unconstitutional as well as sneaky.”

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