Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Can caregivers who work as contractors still be unionized?

There is a case before the Supreme Court, Harris v. Quinn, where a caregiver in Illinois (who, in this case, cares for a disabled son) is fighting being required to pay mandatory union dues. 
The care arguably has huge potential implications for labor unions, and the “right to work” concept, in many states, first for public employee unions and eventually maybe for all unions.  Right now, though, another aspect is that Harris is actually a self-employed contractor.  I’ve never heard of contractors themselves being unionized;  I would have thought that in other occupations, the “freedom” of no unions could be a good thing.  But caregiving is a totally different kind of work. 
The objection to mandatory union dues is that they amount to “mandatory political activism” violating the First Amendment, at least in a public sector scenario.
There is a precedent for normal public employees, Abood v. Detroit Board of Education which says that this is OK.  I’ll probably come back to all of this later on other blogs.  The interesting thing here is that the caregiver is an independent contractor, but her rates are set by state laws.  Arguably, she gets the benefit of the rates without have to “pay her dues”. 
Matthew Yglesias has an article about the problem on Vox,here
Generally, as I know from my own experience in my mother’s care before her death at the end of 2010, home care workers earn relatively little, and the ability to collect overtime has been controversial (and there is also the issue of live-ins).  As the load of eldercare (especially dementia and Alzheimer’s) will only increase the labor needs. 

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