Co-authored with Aloysius Hogan
Women just scored a significant victory in the U.S. Supreme Court.
In Harris v. Quinn, decided just last month, the Supreme Court declared that childcare providers and personal care aids (PCAs attend to hygiene, housekeeping, and meal preparation for the elderly and infirm) are not required to unionize. Illinois had enacted a new law which categorizing childcare providers and PCAs as "government workers" eligible to be unionized, creating the controversy.
Women primarily make up childcare providers and PCAs. Many of these women are small business owners, while others are employees of these small businesses, or work for themselves as independent contractors. Frequently the childcare providers work out of their own home, while the PCAs will often go to their clients' homes. A good number of these women are professionally licensed.
This is not a lucrative business. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics figures from 2012, PCAs earned on average $19,910 per year. It is therefore understandable that the women who work in this industry would bristle at the thought of a union reaching into their wallets to take over $400 per year in union dues and fees, particularly when they never asked for union representation in the first place.
Instead, these male-dominated labor unions have been pressuring these women to unionize.
So, why is Big Labor so interested in adding childcare workers and PCAs to their membership rolls? Because, in the words of former Service Employees International Union (SEIU) President Andy Stern, unions have become too "male, pale, and stale" and "organized labor was dying because of it," reported Bradford Plumer in the New Republic magazine.
In order to diversify, the SEIU and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), made a tactical decision to go after women, especially women in the service sector previously considered "unorganizable." But instead of encouraging women in these industries to join, the unions instead opted to force them "to submit to exclusive representation by a labor union and pay for the privilege," as the Heritage Foundation's Andrew Grossman explained.
With SEIU and AFSCME encouragement, Illinois Democrat Governor Rod Blagojevich and Minnesota Democrat Governor Mark Dayton issue executive orders designating these women as government employees. Suspiciously, as Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote the majority opinion, pointed out during the oral argument of Harris v. Quinn, "Blagojevich got a huge campaign contribution from the union and virtually as soon as he got into office he took out his pen and signed an executive order that had the effect of putting, what was it, $3.6 million [annually] into the union covers." Today, according to the Illinois Policy Institute, that number is $20 million per year.
Next, SEIU and AFSCME union bosses urged state legislatures in both states to enact state laws specifically categorizing child care providers and PCAs as government workers who were thus eligible to be unionized.
"It was very sad to watch my own legislator knowingly go against what constituents wanted," recounted Minnesota childcare provider Cyndi Cunningham in a video interview.
Asked why she thought he did so, Cyndi explained, "My state house representative is actually an AFSCME union member."
These women were clear that they did not want to be unionized. Pam Harris, the named petitioner in her U.S. Supreme Court case, said in another video interview, "I have real fears about unionism in my home. It will interfere with [my son] Josh's care, and it intrudes in our family." Cyndi Cunningham said, "I've never been a person to be against unions. In this case, this type of union should not be allowed."
Justice Samuel Alito and four other justices defended the right of these women not to unionize, saying, "[E]xcept perhaps in the rarest of circumstances, no person in this country may be compelled to subsidize speech by a third party that he or she does not wish to support."
The day after the decision, the Supreme Court ruled for yet another group of three women and a husband and wife, permitting home childcare providers in Michigan to file a class-action lawsuit for the return of union dues and agency fees that were collected in violation of their First Amendment rights.
The Supreme Court's defense of women in these industries is a positive sign but all Americans should be alarmed that it took the Supreme Court, rather than a little common sense and a shred of decency, to strike down a law that allowed unions to take money from these low-paid workers. Unionization would likely raise the costs of services received by children and the elderly, lining Big Labor's pockets at the expense of these two vulnerable populations.
This is another example of government intruding in the affairs of women under the guise of "help" and "assistance" when no help or assistance was ever requested. Unions, along with their cronies in Big Government have lost their way and now see nothing wrong with preying on workers who make very little money while helping others.
Talk about a War on Women!
Aloysius Hogan is a Senior Fellow Senior Fellow with the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Julie Gunlock is a Senior Fellow with the Independent Women's Forum.