How 2 Illinois women saved caregivers millions

How 2 Illinois women saved caregivers millions

Pam Harris’ victory in the Supreme Court, and Laura Baston’s application of that ruling, have cut SEIU dues-skimming by 40%.

In the first half of 2014, personal assistants who took care of disabled individuals in their homes as part of the state’s Home Services Program were forced to contribute a portion of each benefit check to the Service Employees International Union, or SEIU. But Harris v. Quinn changed all that.

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s June 2014 decision in the case – that state governments cannot force-unionize participants in state entitlement programs, or force them to pay union dues or fees as a condition of receiving help from the state – personal assistants saw relief. In July, monthly dues skimmed by the SEIU from their benefit checks were reduced by $232,000.


In response, the SEIU worked with then-Gov. Pat Quinn to set up mandatory training sessions for personal assistants during which the SEIU made membership pitches. Even with the resulting increase in union membership, personal assistants were able to keep over $180,000 more in December than they did in January.

Some background: Beginning in 2003, the SEIU received the power to force-unionize personal assistants, as well as home day care providers who care for children participating in Illinois’ Child Care Assistance Program, which provides a stipend to low-income families in need of day care services, when then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed the first of a series of executive orders declaring that people eligible for support under various state welfare programs would be treated as public employees under Illinois labor law. Quinn picked up where Blagojevich left off, and eventually the General Assembly wrote these orders into state law.

Therefore, even if they opted out of union membership, day care providers and personal assistants still had to pay the SEIU a “fair-share” fee out of the money they received to deliver services to children or individuals with disabilities.

But in June 2014, the Supreme Court issued its groundbreaking ruling in Harris v. Quinn. When the ruling was put into effect the following month, the SEIU saw a 40 percent drop in dues collected from people participating in these programs. That’s an additional $690,000 that providers put toward serving those in need in July alone.


The SEIU received $450,000 less in July than they did the previous month from day care providers alone. This was a direct result of a petition from Laura Baston, a day care provider from downstate Casey, Illinois, asking the Quinn administration to apply the ruling in Harris v. Quinn to day care providers and stop withdrawing union fees from her benefit checks. Quinn granted this request.


Not only do Harris’ and Baston’s actions stand to save caregivers millions over the next few years, they also free ordinary people from supporting a union against their will; a win for pocketbooks and First Amendment rights across the state.

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