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What Does Supreme Court’s Personal Home Care Worker Decision Mean for Connecticut?

by Hugh McQuaid | Jun 30, 2014 4:42pm
(11) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Business, Economics, Labor

CTNJ file photo In a ruling that could impact Connecticut’s unions, the U.S. Supreme Court found Monday that personal care attendants in Illinois are not “full-fledged” state employees and can’t be compelled to pay public sector union dues.

The justices ruled 5-4 in Harris v. Quinn that home health care workers in Illinois who are paid through Medicaid but who work for private individuals are not subject to the law that requires public sector workers to pay unions for their representation. That law had clear boundaries in that it applied only to public sector workers, Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the majority opinion.

“Extending those boundaries to encompass partial-public employees, quasi-public employees, or simply private employees would invite problems,” he wrote.

The Illinois case could have ramifications here Connecticut, where home care attendants voted in 2012 to have SEIU District 1199 represent them in collective bargaining with the state under a similar arrangement.

The process was put in motion by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy through an executive order. The order was controversial to some and was challenged in a lawsuit that claimed the process amounted to the forced unionization of some workers. The lawsuit was unsuccessful after the legislature codified and expanded the executive orders.

Since then, the union negotiated an agreement that included pay increases for the personal care workers.

The local impact of the Supreme Court decision was unclear Monday.

Malloy issued a statement calling the decision a blow to the rights of American workers, but said his office was working to determine what effect it will have in Connecticut.

“While we review today’s ruling to determine exactly how it will impact workers in Connecticut, I can guarantee that we will continue to stand with them and keep improving the jobs and fair wages that they have worked for,” Malloy said.

Attorney General George Jepsen called the ruling “disappointing” in a statement and said his office was also reviewing it to determine “what effect, if any” the decision will have on home health care workers in Connecticut.

Meanwhile, SEIU 1199 New England issued a press release framing the decision as damaging to Illinois workers but limited in scope. President David Pickus said Connecticut’s personal care attendants already have made gains since unionizing.

“No court decision is going to stop them from continuing to improve their lives and the lives of the people for whom they care. We’re committed to working with the state and our allies to ensure home care workers have a voice for good jobs and quality home care,” Pickus said.

The decision was praised by the Yankee Institute for Public Policy, the conservative think tank that backed the lawsuit against the executive orders in 2012. In a press release, the group said the ruling “effectively invalidates” both Malloy’s executive order and the law codifying it.

Yankee Institute President Carol Platt Liebau said the court made two things “crystal clear” through the ruling.

“Home health care workers work for their elderly or disabled patients — not the state — and private homes are not union shops. Obviously, this opinion does not prohibit any worker from paying union fees if he wishes to do so. But no longer can the state force home health care workers to join a union and pay dues against their will,” she said.

Daniel Schwartz, an attorney with Shipman & Goodwin who writes the Connecticut Employment Law Blog, said it remains to be seen how the ruling will impact Connecticut home health care workers.

However, Schwartz said the court issued a more narrow ruling than some expected by making a distinction between “full-fledged” and “partial public employees.” He said it will not impact on the “full-fledged” employees.

“People were wondering if the court’s decision was going to be broader than it was. It certainly was not as far reaching as some had expected or feared depending on their point of view,” Schwartz said.

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(11) Comments

posted by: dano860 | June 30, 2014  9:53pm

Thankfully someone has used a little common sense.
Now the folks that were ramrod forced into joining the union via card check and strong arming them should get all of their dues returned in one lump sum.

posted by: DirtyJobsGUy | July 1, 2014  7:05am

The people in question are not state employees, nor are they under a contract that the SEIU is negotiating.  This is a pure and simple money grab by the SEIU and the Governor is at Boss Tweed levels for enabling this.

posted by: justsayin | July 1, 2014  7:06am

It means the bully at the pulpit, Danny boy, was wrong, over stepped his bounds and now it needs to be fixed. No surprise here even his own party stayed away from this one.

posted by: UConnHoop | July 1, 2014  8:26am

This decision was a no-brainer except for people who live in the People’s Republic of CT.

posted by: james pelkey | July 1, 2014  10:39am

bully malloy, self proclaimed “servant to the unions” “you lost get over it” i like the way a union spoke person said on the radio this am"we will see what impact IF ANY this will have on ct” bully malloy and the unions believe they are above the law. it is disgusting how the unions have lost their way and meaning in the work force. now they are nothing more than disgusting greedy self serving money grabbing thugs.the soon demise of unions will only have themselves to blame for their demise.the unions will not save mouthy bully malloy from termination 4 nov 14.

posted by: Historian | July 1, 2014  1:24pm

The really creepy part of this is the obscure but very profitable racket the unions have created. The actually arranged here to force a mother to pay a fee to the union to care for her child in her home at her cost and time. She was not being paid by anyone!! It is a minor miracle that Obama has not had the opportunity to destroy the sensible majority on the Supreme Court yet….

posted by: Joebigjoe | July 1, 2014  1:26pm

Wasn’t there an issue with home day care workers that were getting unannounced visits from union membership people? I’m pretty sure Malloy signed off on that being OK if I recall. If so they should sue him for their strong arm tactics and threats that some people talked about on that evil talk radio station WTIC.

They would show up unannounced when people would be caring for the children and push them to join SEIU.

posted by: shinningstars122 | July 1, 2014  9:13pm

shinningstars122

Who needs to read the article when I can just jump to the comments for an insightful and an objective narrative from the teaparty intelligentsia?

Keep fighting for the middle class you Koch brother stooges.

posted by: Milton Buckley | July 1, 2014  11:24pm

I’d suggest you suffer from Kochmania Shinning, an irrational fear of the unknown.
Perhaps reading 1984 will give you a insight on unions. You sound like you need help.

posted by: Joebigjoe | July 2, 2014  7:28am

I just love these people that are anti-Koch brothers but will totally ignore “little” things like the Obama administration threatening doctors and nurses with arrest if they share anything about the horrible condition and diseases that a number of these children illegal immigrants are bringing in to our country. Many of these kids are being secretly shipped off to all kinds of different locations around the US, but I guess the Koch brothers are the real threat.

When we have outbreaks of scabies, measles,chicken pox and a host of other things all fingers will point at Obama supporters who have turned a blind eye to what this guy is doing, but like to attack the Koch brothers who recently made the second largest donation in history to the NAACP earmarked for kids of color college educations.

posted by: CT Jim | July 2, 2014  10:11am

I"m sure our non historian is getting his talking points from the far right Yankee Institute. Not correct in his claims but when it’s the Yankee Institute facts don’t matter it’s what they can get you to believe that matters