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First Amendment Debate Hits Home Care: What Illinois is telling the Home Health

Home Health enters the Fight
Home Health enters the Fight
Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images

In a case that has tempers flaring on both sides of the issue, one Illinois home care worker sought legal relief in what is now setting a precedent among home care workers and those who employ them. Miss Pam Harris, an Illinois home care worker decided she was not willing to pay union dues or sponsor their beliefs and she took her fight to court. In a 5 to 4 ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that requiring workers to pay union dues violated their first amendment rights. The ruling was made on June 30, 2014 and heated debates soon followed. However, workers and providers should be slow to take up arms and should really examine this case as it is a very important decision, not only for Illinois but also for the nationwide home health community. I have been watching this case as it is a very important case study. I caution home care workers to read this decision carefully as it changes some common and long-standing practices among the provider community. Some workers in Ill. may find this ruling hurts their chances at bargaining for fair wages; it does not. While the ruling states that workers can't be "required" to participate in unions and submit dues to union organizations, it doesn't say that workers can't participate in unions willingly. For those who feel strongly that unions increase their chances at fair wages and a seat at the bargaining table I say, march on. It is your right. That said, those who don't choose to participate in unions or their activities also have that same right. The right to assemble is that simple and that complicated. We have the free will to assemble with whatever groups we choose but we cannot and should not be required to assemble with those groups. The key term in the labor statute in "required". Illinois has a long practice of requiring home care workers to submit to unions and dues. In basic principle, this is wrong. By contrast, workers who have benefitted from union participation may want to educate non-union members regarding the idea of strength in numbers. An ounce of education can go a long way toward making unions a willing choice for all. As the Illinois provider community adjusts to this new way of thinking, let's all take note. Unions are a useful resource as long as the individual retains free will to participate. To understand this case fully you can read about it on I welcome your comments regarding this ruling and how it will affect the home health provider community at large.