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What’s at Stake in Monday’s SCOTUS Decision on Harris v. Quinn

This Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to decide Harris v. Quinn, as one of the court’s last two decisions to be handed down in 2014.

The case, which originated in Illinois, concerns whether home health care workers who receive government assistance are public employees and can be unionized. These workers include individuals who offer home health care services, an industry that is largely run by women. A sister case in Minnesota, Parrish v. Dayton, addresses many of the same issues but focuses on daycare service providers. In both cases, all of the plaintiffs are women.

There are two big issues to keep in mind for Monday’s decision:

1. Forcing private employers, employees, and independent contractors to be government employees

Many daycare and home health care service providers end up being paid with government benefits because an individual they are caring for is a recipient of government benefits, such as Medicaid. At issue in this case is whether these providers may be considered state employees, because some of their earned pay comes from government dollars.

The argument is ridiculous that anyone directly or indirectly receiving government benefits as payment for service could therefore be considered a government employee. That is like arguing 7-Eleven workers are government employees because 7-Eleven accepts food stamps. In this case’s oral argument, the attorney representing the women suing the government, used the example of medical care, saying that by this logic, every doctor could then be considered a government employee for accepting Medicaid or Medicare.

2. Violating the First Amendment right to Freedom of Association

In states like Illinois and Minnesota, daycare workers and home health care workers were forced by executive order and legislation to accept exclusive representation by a particularly union - Service Employees International Union (SEIU) or American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

What this means is these workers have no choice but to pay the union to represent them whether or not they agree with the union. It violates their right to freedom of association because workers should never be forced to associate with and pay for big labor lobbying for bigger government when they don’t support it.

I recently sat down with Cyndi Cunningham, a child-care provider in Minnesota, whose industry is being forced into unionization by the government.

A perceptive and humble small-business owner, Ms. Cunningham runs her business out of her house and has fought unionization all the way to the United States Supreme Court. The Parrish v. Dayton case to which Ms. Cunningham is a party involves child-care providers and was joined with Harris v. Quinn regarding home health care providers. The child-care providers are predominantly women and mothers who are facing the pressure tactics of union bosses and government strong-arming. As Cyndi Cunningham notes, if a customer receiving government subsidies opens a small, home-based business up to unionization, where does it logically end?

Check out my discussion with Ms. Cunningham to learn more about the challenges child-care providers are facing due to unionization.

Click here to watch the interview.