Supreme Court to hear case involving forced unionization

Supreme Court to hear case involving forced unionization of caregivers in Ill.

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

A Chicago-area mother, who's been fighting for four years to avoid joining a union, is going to get her day before the United States Supreme Court.

Her job involves caring for her disabled son, and she says that's no place of union interference.

"I don't rock the boat, I just do the very best to make sure my son has a busy and meaningful life," Harris says.

Four years ago, Pam Harris invited us into her home to show just how much care is required for Josh, her severely disabled son.

She was also angry and furious that Governor Quinn had signed an order allowing unions like the Service Employees International to attempt to organize workers like her, who are paid to care for disabled relatives. She claimed union rules could interfere with how she cared for her son, and just so unions could get expanded membership and collect more fees.

She spoke with FOX 32's Larry Yellen by phone on Monday, because cameras, she said, now upset her son.

"The only group that's going to benefit from unionizing this group--predominantly parents--is the SEIU," she tells FOX 32 over the phone.

The case before the Supreme Court involves two groups of health care workers; Harris' smaller group who work with the disabled--they've never voted to unionize--and a much larger group of workers who work with other Medicaid clients. They did join the union, but some members of this larger group are telling the court that being forced to support the SEIU with fees violates their first amendment rights. The SEIU disagrees.

"There are homecare workers in the state who made a decision to be in a union, and they are paying fees," April Verrett with the SEIU Healthcare of Illinois and Indiana explains. "Workers who have not made that decision, who voted no, are not paying fees."

Law professor Martin Malin say unions representing public employees will be watching the case closely because if the home care workers can't be compelled to pay fees, unions may face trouble down the line.

"It is a huge issue for public employee unions and that's because in the absence of a provision requiring the payment of fees," Kent College of Law's Martin Malin says. "You have a classic collective action problem."

A spokesperson for Attorney General Lisa Madigan, who's representing Governor Quinn in the case, told FOX 32 News they'd have no comment now that the case is before the Supreme Court.

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