Amy Ridenour: Harris Decision Will Impact Organized Labor

Thursday, 03 Jul 2014 04:17 PM

By Courtney Coren

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The Supreme Court's Harris v. Quinn decision is an "extremely important case for the future of organized labor," says Amy Ridenour, chairwoman of the National Center for Public Policy Research. 

The justices voted 5-4 in support of the Harris case, in which it was decided that members of public unions could not be forced to pay union dues, if the employee objected to being a union member. 

In the Harris case, Ridenour told Ed Berliner on "MidPoint" on Newsmax TV on Thursday, "individuals were forced to pay service fees to a union . . . . They didn’t have a choice about it, they didn’t join the union, they were told they had to pay service fees and the service fees were not used for the sort of thing that typically one thinks they’ll be used for like a collective bargaining."

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The service fees were were used by the union "to lobby Illinois and the federal government for expanded Medicaid spending."

However, Pamela Harris and the other workers "did not work for the government," Ridenour explained.

"They worked for largely disabled people, elderly people who were on Medicaid so they were indirectly getting tax payer’s money, but only because the people they worked for received public assistance," she added.

The union was using the money it received from these home-aid workers to do "left-wing lobbying with their money and they had no choice, but to give it."

Ultimately, it was "a First Amendment violation" because they were being forced "to pay for speech" that they didn't agree with.

The chairwoman for the National Center for Public Policy Research said that the decision could have a larger impact on other union areas, but that it would take "a new case."

She explained that it was decided in a 1977 Supreme Court case that union members could split their union dues so that their money would only go toward collective bargaining not political activity, if they chose.

"What happened in this decision is a majority said, we may re-look at that 1977 case in the future and decide that actually public unions, that is unions whose members are public employees actually are violating the people that are paying service fees because public unions actually have a dramatic impact on national public policy, so if they do that then the only revenue that a public union will get is from its voluntary members," Ridenour explained.

If that happens, "that will be hugely expensive for the union" because so much of the money they have is "from people who have no choice about giving their money," she added.

"And you get a lot more money when you can force people to give it to you."

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