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Caregivers Forced to Unionize

Updated: Wednesday, May 14 2014, 09:50 AM CDT

The United States Supreme Court is now weeks away from ruling on what many call the biggest organized labor case to come before the court in years.

The case pits an in-home caregiver's first amendment right to free speech against the recruiting efforts of unions.

Our national correspondent Kristine Frazao explains.

In the 1979 movie Norma Rae, actress Sally Field's character is the spark that leads to unionizing a textile mill.


35 years later, Pam Harris, a real-life homemaker and caregiver to her developmentally disabled adult son Josh, stands as the forced antithesis to Norma Rae.

"I don't want my home to be a union workplace."

Harris also detested the idea that public service unions like SIUE and AFSCME would siphon money from kids and adults just like Josh.

In Harris' home state of Illinois, Medicaid pays caregivers out of a capped program.

Technically Josh is Pam's boss and union dues would come from the Medicaid money Josh receives.

The Washington Examiner's Sean Higgins says unions stood to gain millions of dollars bringing folks like Pam Harris into the fold.

Higgins has reported extensively on the Harris case.

"These contracts are a major source of revenue and members for unions and if they don't have it, they will probably lose a lot of people."

Harris had no intention of battling unions or Illinois' Governor Pat Quinn.

But that was before Quinn signed an executive order permitting unions to recruit stay-at-home caregivers.

"I'm not anti-union, I'm not against anybody's right to organize. Heck, I organized groups of people in this effort. I'm not opposed to that at all."

Harris drummed up enough support from fellow caregivers to defeat the unions' attempt to organize them.

But she could not get the Governor to back off his executive order.

What's more, unions are free to keep trying to unionize in-home caregivers.

And now Harris' case is before the United States Supreme Court and some legal experts say if she's successful, organized labor will suffer a major blow."

"This will stop the unions, I believe, from expanding into areas. Which, is the core of the Pamela Harris case -- is are you an employee."

The Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling by early summer.


Caregivers Forced to Unionize


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