JACK SPENCER: Would they say it came out of nowhere?
Imagine it is late June of this year and the U.S. Supreme Court rules that all government employees nationwide are subject to “Right to Work.”
Under “Right to Work,” no employee has to financially contribute to a union as a condition of employment. In other words they would be free to leave a union and no longer have to pay the union anything; neither dues nor fees.
Initially, such a ruling would impact government workers in states like New York and California that currently don’t have “Right to Work” laws. Employees at every level of government in these states — including school districts — would be affected. But ultimately the impact would also be felt at the national level and in all 50 states, including those like Michigan that already have “Right to Work” laws. Dynamics that influence all governmental budgets, all unions, all taxpayers, all politics and the economy would be altered.
Chances are that if the U.S. Supreme Court made such a ruling it would send shock waves throughout the nation. Literally millions of people would be surprised. That would be because the news media, or the lion’s share of it, hadn’t adequately covered the case that may lead to this decision. In other words, the news media itself would be caught off guard due to its own shortcomings.
We can visualize the news coverage of such an “unforeseen” decision. “The U.S. Supreme Court has unexpectedly...etc. etc.” or “Supreme Court Makes Surprise Ruling.” We can almost hear political observers saying things like: “This came out of nowhere” and “Almost no one saw this coming...”
So, what are the chances that sometime this summer the U.S. Supreme Court will rule that, for all intents and purposes, “Right to Work” is the law of the land concerning all governmental employees? It is probably about 50-50, give or take a percentage point or two.
The case is “Harris vs Quinn” and last year the high court decided to take it up. The case is about the unionization of those who care for disabled persons in Illinois under the federal Home Help program.
To union officials who claim these people are eligible to be unionized, they are referred to as home healthcare workers. To those who argue that these types of unionizations are just schemes to fill union coffers, these people are home-based caregivers or just caregivers. Many of these caregivers are family members or friends of the person receiving the care.
In Michigan the unionization of caregivers within the Home Help Program was a corrupt process. It involved a dummy employer, a stealth by-mail election and steps taken so secretly that the news media didn’t find out about it until four years after it happened.
Eventually the scheme was outlawed, but it was only forced to end after the union failed to get Michigan voters to pass the deceitful Proposal 4 on the 2012 statewide ballot. By the time the unionization was finally shut down the union involved had received more than $34 million in dues and fees deducted from the caregivers’ Medicaid checks.
Arguably in Illinois and apparently in most of the states where such unionizations have taken place, the processes used were not corrupt because they happened in the light of day with news media coverage. But in “Harris vs Quinn” the very eligibility of such home-based caregivers to be considered employees who can be unionized is being challenged.
Why on Earth would a case about whether or not home-based caregivers can be unionized potentially result in all public employees in the nation becoming subject to “Right to Work”? The answer is – because the Supreme Court justices have taken it in that direction.
In January when oral arguments took place on “Harris vs Quinn,” the justices led the discussion toward the reversal of the 1977 U.S. Supreme Court decision in “Abood vs Detroit Board of Education.” That was the landmark decision that has allowed government unions to establish “union shops.” If the high court were to reverse that 1977 ruling, it would have the same effect as making all government employees in the U.S. subject to “Right to Work.”
During those January oral arguments not only did the Supreme Court justices discuss reversing the “Abood” decision, they seemed to insist on sticking to that basic theme. Whenever the attorneys attempted to make arguments that pertained more directly to the Illinois unionization of home-based caregivers, the justices repeatedly steered the arguments back to the idea of reconsidering the 1977 “Abood” ruling.
Trying to foretell how the U.S. Supreme Court will rule based on oral arguments would be dicey at best. This column is making no such prediction. However, if the high court does follow through with what it discussed in January and basically makes the U.S. a “Right to Work” nation as regards government employees, the news media would be wrong to claim that the court gave no warning.
The primary problem with the so-called mainstream news media isn’t the way it covers issues; it is that it either downplays important issues or misses them entirely. This is why alternative news media, left, right or in between, is becoming increasingly important.