A mom's fight for justice: Harris v. Quinn

Pam is a mom in northern Illinois whose son, Joshua, needs constant care because of a rare genetic syndrome that causes severe intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Pam receives a modest subsidy from a Medicaid-waiver program that allows her to stay home and take care of Joshua. She isn’t a state employee; she just gets a check so Joshua can be at home and not in an institution.

Pam was happy with the program – until Gov. Pat Quinn and the Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, got involved. In 2009, Quinn issued an executive order authorizing the state to recognize an “exclusive representative” — a union — for home-care providers like Pam.

Pam found out about this when some union representatives showed up unannounced at her home on a Sunday morning in 2009.

She declined their offer to join. She wanted her checks to support Joshua’s care, not the union’s agenda, and she didn’t want the union to intrude upon her home or relationship with her son.

Then Pam took action.

She spent her own money to send notices to other home-care providers and warned them of the union threat to their finances and their independence. When a vote was held, the providers said no to the unions.

Pam asked Quinn to respect providers’ wishes and rescind his executive order. But Quinn refused.

She knew the unions’ deep pockets would allow them to keep coming back, and she couldn’t afford to keep fighting them by herself forever. So she looked for help, and she got it from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, which brought a lawsuit on her behalf challenging the state’s attempts to unionize home-care providers. She was joined in the suit by providers in a similar state program that former Gov. Rod Blagojevich and SEIU successfully unionized in 2003.

Her case, Harris v. Quinn, begins oral arguments at the Supreme Court on Jan. 21. And our public interest law firm, the Liberty Justice Center, has filed an amicus brief supporting her.

Our brief shows how Illinois’ unionization scheme violates the First Amendment by forcing home-care providers to support unions’ political speech — and how this threatens to distort the marketplace of ideas in favor of those the government approves of.

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Paul Kersey | Director of Labor
Labor law expert, occasional smart-aleck, defender of the free society.