For Big Labor bosses, the hits from the U.S. Supreme Court just keep coming. The court ruled last week that President Obama's shameless attempt to stack the National Labor Relations Board with his hand-picked union sympathizers was, in fact, unconstitutional.
The president was just trying to do his labor allies a favor — after all, they've given him hundreds of millions of dollars in campaign cash over the years — and apparently the former constitutional lawyer didn't mind violating the U.S. Constitution to do it. In return, the court delivered a unanimous rebuke.
Right on the heels of that ruling came the decision in Harris v. Quinn. In this case, which originated in the president's home state of Illinois, the high court ruled that the First Amendment rights of home health care workers were violated when they were forced to pay union dues. Another desperate, coercive Big Labor boss tactic to get their hands on money in the form of dues by any means necessary has been rightly blocked.
Of course, it's no wonder union bosses are so desperate for cash. Their membership is on the decline nationwide and, therefore, so are their dues. This cash is what buys access to politicians, putting labor bosses in positions of power. It's precisely this nexus of corruption between politicians and unions that led to the Harris case coming before the Supreme Court, and now it's come back to haunt the labor bosses themselves.
The story was initially set in motion by one of Illinois' more colorfully corrupt characters, former Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich. "Blago" is now sitting in federal prison after his conviction on corruption charges, following his attempt to "sell" Mr. Obama's former Senate seat, which he famously referred to as "golden" in an expletive-laden FBI recording. Blagojevich was a major union supporter and as part of his wheeling and dealing, he even tried to line up a top union job for himself in exchange for appointing a pro-labor senator to the open seat.
Even further back, in 2003, Blagojevich helped out his union allies in a big way, signing an executive order that paved the way for Illinois home workers being forced to pay dues to the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). In fact, he had drafted another executive order by 2008, which would have gone even further toward forced unionization, but the process was interrupted by his inconvenient arrest. Luckily, Blagojevich's successor, fellow Democrat Pat Quinn, continued the policy, forcing home care workers to pay SEIU dues and thus becoming the "Quinn" named in the case.
In Illinois, home caregivers work directly for the families and individuals that they assist, but they are paid with state Medicaid funds. The court had to decide whether they truly counted as public employees. In his majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito called them "'partial' or 'quasi' public employees," and as such, the court ruled that they were not required to pay union dues.
While there is still work to be done in combating the coercive techniques of union bosses and their political enablers, this ruling is a significant step in the right direction. The plaintiff, Pamela Harris, is considered a home care worker because she provides full-time care for her disabled son, Josh. Now, she says, "there will be no third party intruding into the care we provide our disabled sons and daughters." The ruling is not without far-reaching impacts. Paul Kersey of the Illinois Policy Institute told The Washington Free Beacon that this change could dry up the $20 million per year stream of coerced dues from home care workers that Illinois unions currently enjoy.
These unions were getting rich because their political allies forced more people into paying them dues money that never belonged to them to begin with. Ms. Harris knew that wasn't right, so she took action. The highest court in the land agreed, and Big Labor should heed the warning that they won't be able to get away with exploiting these cozy relationships with politicians forever.
Hector Barreto is the former head of the Small Business Administration (2001-06), and currently serves as the chairman of the Latino Coalition.