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To Join or Not to Join? That is the (Right-to-Work) Question

jimwaters6KENTUCKY (7/3/14) — Tis the season to celebrate America’s independence and recent Supreme Court decisions.

Last week, we praised the Kentucky Supreme Court’s ruling prohibiting unelected bureaucrats from enforcing smoking bans on private property while giving elected officials a pass on a controversial policy.

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Harris v Quinn that homecare providers are not state employees and cannot be forced to pay union dues.

The ludicrousness leading to this case originates in Illinois, which forced parents providing care for their severely disabled children in their home to pay union dues via executive orders by former governor-turned-prison-inmate Rod Blagojevich and Pat Quinn, his political heir. (What is it about chief executives from Illinois using their pens to trump the law?)

Their Caesar-like edicts resulted in labeling homecare providers as “state employees” and unionizing them, which led to union dues being extracted from their already-small mostly Medicare stipends.

Pam Harris, who cares for her severely disabled adult son at home, sued Quinn because she believes that “not a penny of Medicaid funding intended to help provide care for disabled men and women should be taken away and given to the union.”

Harris and her fellow “workers” didn’t even get a choice of which union to join. They were “assigned” to the Service International Employees Union, which reaped up to $20 million in new money because of this scheme.

The SEIU in its reaction to the court’s ruling claimed that the unionization of homecare providers “has proven successful in raising wages, providing affordable health care benefits, and increasing training.”

The question follows: If the union provides such tremendous benefits, why does it need unconstitutional edicts from a felonious governor and his political descendant forcing people to join?

Even if the SEIU provided such benefits, Harris did not believe it was in her best interest to join the union and allow dues to be extracted from the precious resources used to care for her son.

It may be President Obama’s default position to get out his pen when Congress doesn’t do what he wants and unions to revert to forcing homecare providers like Harris to pay dues anyhow – even when they decide union membership isn’t in their best interest or they don’t agree with the political propaganda the $20 million in extra cash helps the SEIU propagate.

However, it’s not what this nation’s founders intended.

They intended for each individual American’s freedom to determine his own path in life – including whether or not to labor under the banner of union membership.

That’s why along with some flag waving, I’ve been celebrating the First Amendment, which protects your right to speak your mind, worship where you choose and associate with whom you wish.

It’s also why Kentucky needs a right-to-work law.

“The right to associate also inherently carries with it the right not to associate,” Brendan Cole, executive director of the Kentucky Right to Work Committee, said. “In the same way, right-to-work policies protect workers’ rights and freedoms concerning whether or not to join and otherwise support labor unions.”

The Court in its Harris ruling came close to fully implementing right-to-work protections for all government workers. It certainly left the door open for such a ruling in the future.

Lawmakers in Frankfort don’t need to wait on of black-robed justices in Washington to provide such freedom for public workers. They can, and should, move forward for all Kentucky workers – public and private – with the Bluegrass State’s own right-to-work policy.

Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . Read previously published columns at www.bipps.org.

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Posted on 2/2/14
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