Dan Joseph: Court's Union Dues Ruling Bigger Than Hobby Lobby Case

Monday, 30 Jun 2014 06:06 PM

By Sean Piccoli

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A Supreme Court decision to limit the dues-collecting reach of one state's healthcare workers' union could have a profound impact on the future of all public sector employees, Media Research Center political analyst Dan Joseph told Newsmax TV on Monday.

"This is the kind of case that affects everybody because it has so many taxpayer implications," Joseph, appearing on "MidPoint" with host Ed Berliner, said of the high court's 5-4 decision on Monday in Harris v. Quinn.

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The court said the union for Illinois healthcare workers violated the First Amendment by forcing one group of about 26,000 nonunionized workers — home-based caregivers for disabled people — to pay union dues.

Although the union negotiates pay rates for these nonmembers, the court declared the dues requirement illegal because the home-care workers are independent contractors reimbursed by the state, not full-time state employees.

Under those circumstances, the court decided, they cannot be required to pay fees to an organization that takes positions they disagree with.

The court avoided the larger question of whether unions can ever charge dues to nonmembers who happen to be covered under collective bargaining agreements. But future challenges are possible.

"It costs the American people so much, these public sector unions," said Joseph. "These public sector unions have so much political power — and much of their political power comes from these forced contributions."

He said the dues case is arguably farther reaching than the court's much more publicized ruling in favor of the Hobby Lobby crafts store chain and its challenge to contraception coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

The justices said 5-4 on Monday that the Department of Health and Human Services cannot force a private corporation to guarantee birth control coverage for its employees if the company owners object to doing so on religious grounds.

Joseph praised that ruling as the right one — and as something of a relief.

"I don't think people really knew what to expect from this court," he said. "This court has been all over the place, and a lot of conservatives were taken aback by [Chief] Justice [John] Roberts' ruling in the original Obamacare decision. So they didn't really know how they were going to rule.

"Fortunately," said Joseph, "most conservatives are very happy with this decision today and they think they got it absolutely right in protecting religious freedom."

He said the majority was right to focus on religious freedom and not be drawn into the pro-choice argument that Hobby Lobby and other companies were restricting women's access to healthcare.

The court didn't outlaw the contraception mandate; it only ruled that religious exemptions are available to it. But Joseph said the origins of the contraception mandate make it a good target for high-court scrutiny.

"This was such a blatant political stunt by the administration," he said, "This wasn't written into the [Affordable Care Act] law to begin with. It was a mandate handed down by Health and Human Services after the law had already passed, and really … for political reasons. They put this in the bill because they knew that birth control was going to be a winning issue for them in the 2012 election."

Still, Joseph argued it's the decision on union dues that really bears watching in the future.

"Whereas Hobby Lobby was undeniably important for religious-freedom issues and for those who care deeply about the basic intricacies of the matter, it's the union issue that is going to continue to be talked about and continue to have ramifications throughout the country for a long time," he said.

The decision was more unwelcome news for unions, said Joseph.

"No one can deny that unions are really on the decline in this country right now, and especially public-sector unions, which have really taken a hit in the last few years," he said.

Joseph also said the dues case was kind of a stealth decision.

At the courthouse plaza where protesters gather, "There was nobody protesting on either side for this particular issue," he said. "Everybody was about Hobby Lobby and about birth control. I don't even think a lot of people knew that this [union dues] case was going down."


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