By Mark Schneider, General Counsel for the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers
•For more analysis of this case – and excerpts from the oral arguments, check out our AFJ Audio Analysis page for this case.
Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court heard argument in Harris v. Quinn, a challenge to an Illinois law permitting public employee home health care workers to be represented for purposes of collective bargaining by a single union, which has the right to collect compulsory fees from all of the workers it is required to represent. In the state’s view, this unionized home health care system is a more cost-effective alternative than institutionalized care, and by allowing a union to represent the home-based workers based on a majority-rule vote, the state gains by developing a more stable, well-trained, and engaged workforce. The workers, too, have gained much through this system, notably a substantial increase in wages. And, the union got to grow its membership, and prove that it could be a responsible partner in improving the lives of the workers it represents and their communities.
Burkean conservatives ought to take comfort in government cooperating with a private association of workers to further the public interest. The government often works best when it works with groups and associations to advance the public interest. Rather than police and assess attorney misconduct through a bureaucracy in Washington, for example, it has proven beneficial to work with the various state and local bar associations and let attorneys govern themselves. For a half century, we have allowed private groups like agricultural cooperatives, lawyer bar associations, and unions to participate in government regulatory programs where the association requires its members to join and pay their fair share of the cost of the program, and the association must represent all in the group fairly.
Libertarian conservatives, however, aren’t particularly comfortable with the idea of even the government assessing compulsory taxes. They sure as hell don’t approve of private associations doing something similar. And, when that association is a trade union… Read more