Everything You Need To Know About The Harris v. Quinn Decision

Supreme Court building in Washington, DC

by Danielle Cralle and Doug Foote

This morning, the Supreme Court ruled that state-paid home care workers cannot be required to pay fair share fees to a union, despite benefiting from the union-bargained things like higher pay and better job training.

Although the decision doesn’t get rid of fair share in the public sector completely, it’s still a blow to Illinois home care workers  who depend on strong union representation to negotiate for better working conditions.

How does this affect homecare workers?

The decision means that, in Illinois, unions representing homecare workers will have fewer funds to negotiate for things like quality training and supplies, higher pay, or better working conditions; additionally, there’s less money to pay for legal help, staffing, and other costs of union representation. Like a “right to work” law, the decision is a roundabout way of defunding unions.

Under the Illinois union contract (the subject of the original court case) home care aides saw their wages increase from $7 an hour to $11.25 an hour. The wage is expected to increase to $13 an hour by December. Without a fair share fee to ensure that all who benefit share the cost, worker victories like that may not be feasible.

Who is behind Harris v. Quinn?

The plaintiff is an Illinois home care worker named Pamela Harris who opposed her colleagues voting to join SEIU. But, the case got all the way to the Supreme Court thanks to the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation (NRTWLDF), a Virginia-based non-profit that claims to fight “compulsory unionism.” NRTWLDF is the nonprofit arm of the National Right to Work Committee (NRTWC).

The list of donors to both groups reads like a “who’s who” of powerful conservatives: the Charles Koch Charitable Foundation, the Walton Family [of Walmart] Foundation, , and the John M. Olin Foundation.

NRTWC does extensive lobbying across the country to weaken the voices of union workers. They were big supporters of Scott Walker’s union-busting budget, and their lobbyists were on the ground in Indiana and Michigan to help pass those states’ “right to work” laws.

NRTWC also spent $7 million on ads during the 2012 election.

This case was never about whether or not Pamela Harris should have to pay her fair share fee, it’s about powerful people with corporate interests finding yet another tactic to weaken unions.

Why you should care – even if you aren’t in a union

More than a dispute over who should and shouldn’t pay for union representation, this was big business’ attempt to cripple the American workforce. This decision, as a result, not only affects the union and its members, but all workers.

There are two ways to look at this:

  • Your rights and conditions as a worker could suffer. Studies show that unions set the standard for all workers, even those who aren’t part of a union. Because of this, when something negative or positive happens to a group of organized workers – i.e. union members – you can bet that you, a non-unionized worker, will be impacted as well.
  • The decision could affect the quality of public homecare services in Illinois.  According to The Hill, under the previous negotiated union contract, “the state has improved training, reduced turnover, and increased control over the quality of its providers.”

As a community member, home care is a critical public service. This decision weakens the homecare workforce in Illinois, and it could mean a drop in the quality of services that you or a family member relies on.

Photo by fischerfotos via Flickr.

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The Harris v. Quinn Decision: Punching In

No more fair-share

The Supreme Court just ruled that partial employees don’t have to pay fair-share fees.

No shocker here, Walmart strikes again

In Canada, a Walmart that was recently unionized was shut down 6 months later by the company.

Pressure is mounting on immigration reform

For Obama, there’s growing pressure to forget the House and act now on reform.

Digging deeper on charter schools

The Detroit Free Press ran a yearlong investigation into Michigan’s charter schools. During that time they found wasteful spending, poor quality and, corporate money, among other things.

We Make A Big Deal Out of the Koch Brothers. Find Out Why In 3 Minutes.


We get it. It’s often uncomfortable to think about condemning private citizens in the public sphere. But when we talk about Charles and David Koch, it’s important to keep our eyes on the ball, and to wrap our heads around the sheer magnitude of the damage they have caused to wages, workers’ rights, and the integrity of our democracy.

The problem, as Robert Reich points out in this video, is not that the Koch Brothers are rich, and it’s not that they hold such strong beliefs. It’s that they have utilized that mass wealth to impose their views on the rest of us–undermining our democracy and enriching themselves in the process.

The Koch Brothers’ primary political organization, Americans for Prosperity, plans to spend $125 million on the 2014 midterm elections. As of May, they had already spend $35 million, primarily on misleading ads about the Affordable Care Act.

That $125 million doesn’t include the money spent by other Koch-affiliated groups like the 60 Plus Association and Generation Opportunity, the “supporting research” done by the dozens of Koch-funded think tanks of the State Policy Network, or the many other ways the Koch network influences public policy.

Learn more about the Koch Brothers’ political network. 

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Massachusetts Will Raise Its Minimum Wage, But Here Are 2 Reasons Why The Fight Isn’t Over

On Thursday, Governor Deval Patrick (D-MA) signed into law a bill that wouldraise the Massachusetts minimum wage from $8 to $11 by 2017. That would make it the highest minimum wage of any state.

The bill also raises the tipped minimum wage from $2.63 to $3.75 over the same 3 year period.

This is a huge victory benefiting close to 800,000 workers in Massachusetts,57 percent of whom are women and 85 percent of whom are older than 20 (600,000 low wage workers and 200,000 tipped workers). Labor, faith, and community groups like Raise up Massachusetts pushed hard against business groups like the Retailers Association of Massachusettes to get wary Democratic state legislators to accept the relatively high wage.

But here are two big reasons why the work in Massachusetts, like across the country, is far from over:

The minimum wage won’t be indexed to inflation. Massachusetts bill doesn’t peg future minimum wage increases to inflation. Unless something changes, the wage will rise to $11 in three years and stop, while the cost of living keeps increasing.

The proposed ballot initiative from Raise Up Massachusetts, now withdrawn, had included indexing. Gov. Patrick and others pushed for indexing in the legislature, but it was a sticking point for many legislators under pressure from business groups.

This is a pattern we’ve seen in other states. The Maryland legislature passed a minimum wage increase to $10.10, but failed to attach indexing. In Minnesota, the entire minimum wage bill stalled for weeks while the DFL caucus negotiated indexing, which was ultimately included in the final bill.

Earned sick time needs to win the vote in November. Originally, organizers collected a combined 285,000 signatures to put both a minimum wage increase and a statewide earned paid sick days law on the November 2014 ballot.

Raise Up Massachusetts now turns its attention towards ensuring that Massachusetts workers have access to #earnedsicktime #mapoli

— Raise Up MA (@RaiseUpMA) June 26, 2014

The sick time initiative calls for all employers with 11 or more employees to allow workers to earn paid sick days, a maximum of 40 hours each year, and only after 90 days of employment. Workers who take sick time or time off to care for a sick child or relative are protected from being fired.

Now that the minimum wage increase is law, Raise Up Massachusetts has withdrawn the wage ballot question. Minimum wage and sick time are decoupled, with only the sick time initiative going to voters.

Will it make a difference in November?

“The earned sick time ballot question is a lot more difficult for people to understand, and it doesn’t incite the same amount of passion as raising the minimum wage,” political strategist Tony Cignoli told MassLive.com. “The proponents have really got to make it clear what’s in it for the average regular voter out there.”

Raise Up Massachusetts spokesman Steve Crawford disagrees. “We find that support for earned sick time is even stronger than support for increasing the minimum wage,” he said. “Folks can understand it on a personal level. We’ve all been sick. We’ve all had to stay home from work. All of us have not worked a minimum wage job.”

We’ve seen an incredible victory in the Bay State: the highest minimum wage in the country and raises for nearly a million people. Working America will be informing our members in Massachusetts about the crucial issues on the November ballot.

Text RAISE to 30644 to join the fight for fair wages no matter where you live.

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July 4 Made-in-America Flags and BBQ Shopping List

Annin Flagmakers photo

A week from today, we’ll be gathering with families and friends for the nation’s birthday, July 4. Many of us will celebrate with a barbecue. We can keep the red, white and blue in the holiday with this made-in-America, union label backyard barbecue checklist, compiled from the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers (BCTGM), the LA Labor 411′s websiteUnion Plus and the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW).

Before we get into the menu, if you want to wave that flag wide and high, American flags from Annin Flagmakers and Artflag carry the union label. In the photo above, UFCW members Tanya Mounts and Jackie Darr add the grommets to a large American flag at Annin’s Coshocton, Ohio, plant.

To get more made-in-America product lists right to your phone, text FLAG to 235246.

Be sure to check AFL-CIO Now everyday through July 4 for more made-in-America, union product spotlights.

Picnic Supplies

Weber Q series grill, coolers by Igloo and Rubbermaid, red Solo cups and don’t forget the sunscreen by Coppertone and Bain de Soleil.

Hot Dogs, Sausages and Other Grill Meats

Ball Park, Boar’s Head, Calumet, Dearborn Sausage Co., Fischer Meats, Hebrew National, Hofmann, Johnsonville, Oscar Mayer. See more.


French’s Mustard, Guldens Mustard, Heinz Ketchup, Hidden Valley Ranch, Lucky Whip, Vlasic. See more.

Buns and Bread

Ottenbergs, Sara Lee, Vie de France Bakery. See more.

Sodas and Bottled Water

Bart’s, Coke, Diet Sprite, Pepsi, Sprite, American Springs, Pocono Northern Fall’s, Poland Spring. See more.


Budweiser, Bud Light, Henry Weinhard’s Private Reserve, Lionshead, Mad River, Michelob, Miller, Rolling Rock. See more.

Snacks and Dessert

Breyers Ice Cream, Flips Pretzels, Frito-Lay Chips, Good Humor Ice Cream. See more .

Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Ikea Raises Employee Wages!


Great news for employees at Ikea! The German-based furniture company announced that it will raise employee wages to $10.76 an hour, giving workers a 17% pay increase. Hopefully other companies will follow suit.

Working America is fighting to raise the wage on a national level. If successful, more than 4 million workers could get a well-deserved pay bump.

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80 Percent of Conservatives Think Poor “Have It Easy,” Survey Finds: Punching In

There’s an app for that

How drivers in Los Angeles are disrupting Uber’s business model.

Massively out of touch

Pew survey: 80 percent of conservatives think the poor “have it easy.”

Recess isn’t that fun anymore

How the Supreme Court’s decision on recess appointments could hurt workers’ rights down the line.

Finally: Going around Walker to raise the wage

Milwaukee and Dane Counties in Wisconsin, with no help from the legislature, look to raise the minimum wage.

What You Don’t Know About The Working Class and Education: Teaching to The Test, Quality And Education Among Top Concerns


At Working America, we’re shedding light on the real issues that working class people care about. Every week we talk to new members about a particular topic that affects them and their communities.

For a few weeks, we surveyed more than 700 members on the topic of education. Below are some surprising, and not so surprising facts about how working class Americans view education.

  • 71% said that quality and cost are the most important factors in education. Unfortunately, due in part to widening income inequality, many members noted that class determines the type of education a student receives.

“Equal quality of education for all students in the U.S. is important. Where you live determines the kind of education you’ll get.” Colleen, Greensboro, N.C.

  • 84% had children in public school. As a result, funding public school programs and supporting teachers were top priorities for many of them. Notably, members were not in favor of teaching to the test, and the merits of such methods were questioned.

“My biggest concern is that teachers in North Carolina should be treated professionally,” said Lynne , a Working America member from Greensboro N.C. “The laws here disarm teachers and I don’t agree with it.”

  • The relationship between a college degree and solid work is still complicated. 86% of members indicated that they did not have a child in college, as a result, perhaps, many respondents indicated that they’d like to see job training and real-life curriculum integrated into schools. This comes on the heels of several reports noting that a college degree is becoming more and more necessary in today’s world.

“I believe everyone should be able to get a good education because it’s so necessary now days to a good future,’ said Linda from Chicago, Ill. “It’s not like it was 30 or 40 years ago when you could make a living without one, now you really need it.”

Working America has spent a good part of 2014 fighting to keep the specific needs of the working class at the forefront of the debate on education.

In Houston we helped save four public schools from closing, and in Pennsylvania we’re petitioning Governor Corbett to strengthen state funding for public education.

Photo courtesy of AFL-CIO NOW.

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Students Call on The North Face and REI to Protect the Workers It Profits From

Members of United Students Against Sweatshops (USAS) and interns from Union Summer took action at a Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI) store in Rockville, Md., last weekend to protest the retailer’s association with The North Face, a company that uses sweatshop labor in Bangladesh to produce its products. Nearly 2,000 workers in the factories in Bangladesh that North Face and other companies use have died in recent years because of unsafe workplace conditions. Watch the video to see the students in action.

Of particular note is an exchange in the middle of the video between one of the students and an REI employee who asks what the protests are about. She responds eloquently: “When you do business with people that disenfranchise people worldwide, then what does that say about your brand?”


Reposted from AFL-CIO NOW

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Two Years Ahead of Schedule, AFL-CIO Raises $10 Billion to Fix America’s Infrastructure: Punching In

Enough money to fix a few potholes

Three years after making the promise, AFL-CIO has raised $10 billion to invest in America’s infrastructure.

In the Senate, bipartisan effort for the unemployed

Jack Reed (D-RI) and Dean Heller (R-NV) introduce new bill to extend unemployment insurance.

How paid family leave can restore work-life balance

California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island have statewide paid family leave laws. Here’s how they are working.

Finally: Tons of job applications fall into The Gap

After pledging to raise worker wages, job applications to The Gap have surged.