U.S. Supreme Court Illinois SEIU case affects Oregon

Sen Doug Whitsett

by Sen. Doug Whitsett

The United States Supreme Court is currently deciding an Illinois labor dispute that may have major implications in Oregon.  Illinois Governors Blagojevich and Quinn have written and issued Executive Orders establishing that health care providers, who receive payments from the state for caring for disabled individuals in their homes, are by definition state employees that have collective bargaining rights. That Order authorized the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) to organize the newly-coined state employees into their union.

Illinois has also adopted the “Card Check” method of forcing people to join the public employee unions. This method is in direct conflict with the requirement for secret ballot elections where each employee is able to cast a confidential ballot. Secret ballot elections have always been the measure of American voting for all purposes, including whether to either join, or reject, a union.

The “Card Check” method requires that union organizers must obtain only a signature, by more than fifty percent of the eligible employees, on an “intent to vote card” that favors joining the union, to force union membership on all employees. There are virtually no meaningful restrictions on the methods that union organizers can use to “encourage” an employee to sign that “intent” card. Under the “Card-Check” law, no secret ballot election is required and opponents of unionization are never afforded the opportunity to explain their issues in opposition to joining the union.

The Illinois SEIU successfully used the card check method to enroll several thousand home health care providers into their union. A significant number of the new union members care for their own family members within their own homes. They too are required to pay dues or “fair share” contributions to the SEIU.

In Harris v Quinn, the High Court will decide whether these Illinois laws have deprived Patricia Harris of her constitutionally guaranteed right to free speech. Ms. Harris receives state aid for caring for her disabled child in her own home. She has been forced to join the union, and to pay union dues, in order to continue to receive that state aid.

She alleges that the Union uses the dues that she must pay, to support political candidates that she opposes and political issues that she abhors. She further alleges that her right to free speech is being violated by being forced to pay dues that are being used to fund political candidates and issues that she opposes.

The High Court ruling may directly affect Oregon public employee unions because Oregon has virtually the same laws that are being challenged in Illinois. Democrat party majorities in both Legislative chambers have enacted these labor laws largely at the request of the public employees’ unions.

The first law created the “Card-Check” method of union organization in Oregon. Like Illinois workers, Oregon employees no longer have the right to a secret ballot election to determine collective bargaining rights.

The second law defined home health care workers as state employees, only for the purpose of being organized into a union. The Oregon Constitution limits the number of state employees to no more than one and one half percent of the state population. This law was enacted to provide for organization of the home health care workers into public employee unions without counting them as state employees.

Then Governor Kulongoski, a former labor attorney, signed both Acts into Oregon law.

The SEIU subsequently used the “Card-Check” method to force between seven and eight thousand Oregon home health care workers to join their union. Similar to the situation visited upon Illinois home health care providers, many of these new Oregon union members work in their own homes, and care for their own disabled family members.

Many believe that they should not be forced to join a union and pay union dues in order to receive state payments. They further believe that they should not be forced to pay dues or “fair share” contributions to an organization that uses those funds to support candidates and issues that they oppose. Never-the-less, once organized through the “Card-Check” method, they must pay their dues or “fair share” contributions to the SEIU.

Public record contribution and expense reports, available on-line at ORESTAR, clearly show that SEIU has been and continues to be a significant donor to Oregon Democrat candidates. In fact, the Union has consistently been one of the largest contributors of political funds to Democrat candidates and Democrat supported issues for several decades.

The facts of law in Oregon and Illinois are so similar that many legal scholars believe that the High Court ruling on Harris v Quinn may also affect Oregon law. In fact, Oregon law could be significantly changed with a stroke of the High court’s pen, depending upon the extent of their review and their constitutional determinations.

During oral arguments, at least four Justices asked questions that may indicate their support for the Constitutional arguments that Ms. Harris brings forward. For that reason, the eyes of Oregon union leadership are focused on the United States Supreme Court.

Senator Doug Whitsett is the Republican state senator representing Senate District 28 – Klamath Falls

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Posted by at 05:00 | Posted in Employment, Labor, Public Employee Unions, Unions | 20 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Sally

    Remember, any state that does not force union dues collection sees union membership drop like a stone.
    Unions need the state to collect their dues, as otherwise people usually decide to keep their money.
    This could be big!

    • .

      If your post be really sincere, urf, urf! Most posters save for the ilks and bilks of 3H, ardbeg, David Appell – and t’wit, LulzPdx… ballyhooed et al, partake take your sincerity with less than a grain of salt.
      Slurry unto all Dem witted butthead leftease sniveling their ‘knows’ buried in grounds, truffling about with pregnatured naive left wing nimrod pigs – oblivious to the snort of socialist radical hog-wallering US to dearth, albeit condiments of an illegal POTUS!

  • Bob Clark

    The state of Illinois also by no coincident is heavily in debt/obligated at both the local and state government levels.
    Unions not atypically bleed the host they leach onto until it implodes under a mountain of debt; Detroit and Greece only being recent examples.

  • greatgrandmasue

    How about we unionize the military and that way they will receive the top benefits INSTEAD of the scraps.

    • marvinmcconoughey

      I had a military career, grandgrandmasue. The demand to unionize is not there, and military members have good compensation and retirement programs. Where do you get the false idea that military members get “the scraps?” Some modest reforms are needed, but certainly not unionization. It would damage our war fighting capabilities in a very dangerous world.

  • greatgrandmasue

    OK then one relative can care for the person in their own home and not break the taxpayers backs caring for other people’s responsibility.

  • Jack Lord God

    Really the only good thing about Kulongowski was he was a fairly honest governor. He made it clear from the get go he was out for the interests of union cronies at the expense of the rest of the population.

    His administration was absolutely conscienceless.

  • Nice00

    In Oregon, home health care workers who care for disabled family members in their own homes are paid through Medicaid dollars. The disabled family member, in essence, hires the parent or someone else to care for them based on a yearly plan that allocates X amount of dollars per month to the disabled person. So as a parent caring for my disabled adult child, I am paid a monthly sum that essentially is backed out into an hourly wage. If my son gets $1,000 per month to hire me, I work the allotted number of hours at a $14.50 wage to receive the $1,000. Of course I work many hours beyond that to care for him. I pay SEIU fair share dues of approximately $30 out of this $1,000 wage per month. The state is now “revamping” the system because a disabled person living at home is much less costly than a disabled person not living at home. So the state is now upping the dollar amount my son receives which, in the end, would enable parents who care for disabled children the opportunity to care for their children full-time and perhaps not work although the monthly amounts are still not comparable to a minimum wage 40/hour per week job. Most people experiencing this “revamping” believe it is not sustainable. As for fair share dues, in my case I don’t think the union is providing anything to me for my $30/month because in essence I am not receiving an hourly wage in the conventional sense so any lobbying done to provide better working conditions and better wages is moot in my case.
    By the way, the Illinois case also involves deciding whether a home is a union workplace. Declaring homes union workplaces would open up a whole different can of worms.

    • marvinmcconoughey

      Thank you for a thoughtful posting.

  • marvinmcconoughey

    The use of card check should concern everyone because it is a major erosion of democracy in the work place. I was a Teamsters union member many years ago in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Union membership was a condition of employment, and I was struck by little the local union officials cared about the workers or the management.

  • 3H

    Public record contribution and expense reports, available on-line at
    ORESTAR, clearly show that SEIU has been and continues to be a
    significant donor to Oregon Democrat candidates. In fact, the Union has
    consistently been one of the largest contributors of political funds to
    Democrat candidates and Democrat supported issues for several decades.

    And that is what this is all about. I seriously doubt that most conservatives and Republicans are that concerned about workplace democracy. I’ll believe that when I see a move on their part to give workers a vote on policies adopted by their employer.

    No, this is all about campaign contributions. Unions are the one large reliable source of campaign funding for the Left. Get rid of that, and the Right controls the field. It’s not about equity, or fairness, it is all about having as much of a political advantage as possible. But, if I see a serious move on the part of conservatives to overturn Citizens United, or serious campaign finance reform, then I’ll be willing to reconsider their motives. Or, even requiring investors to opt in for campaign contributions from corporations. After all, why should investors have to contribute money to causes they don’t believe in? Think of all that money that is tied up in employee mutual funds that indirectly support political contributions and campaigns that work against their interests.

    • Bless his soul

      Say swat or let Bill Sizemore back in the door to level the playing field or parlaying floor.

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