Harris v. Quinn aftermath: Respect the rule of law

Paul Kersey

Labor law expert, occasional smart-aleck, defender of the free society.

Paul Kersey
/ Labor
July 5, 2014

Harris v. Quinn aftermath: Respect the rule of law

On June 30, the U.S. Supreme Court rendered its final decision in Harris v. Quinn. Justice Samuel Alito’s opinion, approved by a majority of the court, is the last word. There will be no further appeal. But there are still loose ends for the lawyers to tie up. The case of Harris v. Quinn will...

On June 30, the U.S. Supreme Court rendered its final decision in Harris v. Quinn. Justice Samuel Alito’s opinion, approved by a majority of the court, is the last word. There will be no further appeal.

But there are still loose ends for the lawyers to tie up. The case of Harris v. Quinn will be returned to the trial court, which will need to issue the appropriate orders. This should be a formality. We hope that the trial court will be able to complete this task quickly, and that the state’s attorneys will resist the temptation to resort to delay tactics in hopes of providing the Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, with a few more weeks’ worth of ill-gotten money. The collection of mandatory dues out of state benefits to families taking care of loved ones with disabilities should be brought to an immediate end.

It’s time for Gov. Pat Quinn and the SEIU to accept the court’s decision and apply it.

Just as important as the prompt application of the court’s ruling for parents like Pam Harris are the 20,000 Illinoisans who are paying dues who weren’t part of this lawsuit, but still should not be considered state employees: home-based day-care providers who receive state subsidies in exchange for serving low-income families. The basic legal and constitutional principles of the Harris v. Quinn decision – that union dues cannot be imposed on people who are not state employees – clearly applies to them as well. It should not be necessary to burden the public or the courts – let alone day-care providers and the families they serve – with the time or expense of more litigation.

Prompt compliance with the terms of Harris v. Quinn will be a blow to the SEIU, which represents and collects dues from both groups. But aside from proper respect for the law, there is a practical reason why the SEIU – or at least the broader union movement – should make a point of accepting this historic decision gracefully.

In its decision, the court went to great lengths to point out that earlier rulings about government union dues were based on very shaky constitutional grounds. The court did not go any further than to say that government unions can only impose dues on government employees. But it may reconsider, and say that no government employee can be put in a position where he or she is forced to pay anything to a union as a condition of employment.

In short, there is a majority on the court that has taken a very skeptical eye toward unions and their desire for forced dues. Any attempt to thwart the principles of Harris v. Quinn through loopholes or delay tactics is bound to fail, and will likely earn the unions more suspicion from Supreme Court justices.

The nation’s highest court has rendered its decision based on the nation’s highest law. Both deserve the utmost respect. We hope that such respect will be given, that the rule of Harris v. Quinn will be applied and that Illinois will cease imposing union dues on those who clearly are not government employees, immediately.

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