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Mom Forced To Join Union Just To Care For Ill Son

illinois mom union supreme court son

Screen capture from Illinois Policy Institute video

A Chicago mom is being forced to join a union in order to continue caring for her chronically ill son, although she is not giving up and is fighting it in court.

Pam Harris has opted to stay at home and be the primary caregiver for her son Josh for the past 25 years, doing everything she can to make sure that her child is safe, feels loved, and getting the best care available throughout the day.

His needs are quite expensive. The family has received some aid from the Medicaid program administered via the Illinois state government, but the $2,130 per month could quickly disappear if Pam does not join either the AFSCME or SEIU unions.

In 2009, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn issued an executive order mandating unionization of all caregivers in the type of program Pam participates, regardless of whether or not it is the parent offering the assistance.

Pam Harris alerted other parents giving at-home care to their chronically ill child about the mandatory union membership rule. A total of 220 votes were cast for AFSCME, 293 for the SEIU union, and a whopping 1,018 for “no union.”

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Harris and her peers are now taking their fight to remain union-free all the way to the US Supreme Court, and oral arguments in Josh’s cases were heard on January 21. A final decision about union representation of home caregivers related to the patients is not expected until this summer.

A Chicago Tribune editorial piece heavily in favor of Pam Harris and other parents in her position garnered a rather cold-hearted response from the AFSCME executive director. Henry Bayer said that if the parents of chronically ill children did not want to pay union dues, then they should not be eligible for state aid.

Story continues below video

“Caring for the disabled is a state responsibility,” Bayer said. “Her [Pam Harris] attitude of entitlement is one I thought the Tribune rejected.”

A mom caring for her disabled son on a budget is entitled, yet a union which offers nothing, is not? The illogical nature of such an argument incensed Tribune readers, who pushed Pam Harris’ plight into a viral story. Libertarians and Republicans across the country also took issue with Bayer’s notion that the state is responsible for the disabled citizens.

If Pam Harris win the US Supreme Court case against mandatory union membership, it could reshape labor laws for government workers across the nation, according to a My Journal Courier report. Her attorney has asked the court to rule that such employees cannot be forced into “representation fees” or union dues. At least half of states already operate under such a premise. The First Amendment case could also have an immediate impact on folks in Pam’s situation in California, Connecticut, Maryland, and several other states, that utilize Medicaid funds for in-home caregivers.

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