KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Supreme Court Today Hears Case On Medicaid Home Health Workers’ Right To Form Public Employee Union

The case involves workers in Illinois who serve Medicaid patients at home. The state says allowing a union helps provide a more stable workforce, but opponents argue that the move was a "political payback" by state Democrats.

Los Angeles Times: Supreme Court To Hear 1st Amendment Challenge To Labor Unions
The Supreme Court will hear a 1st Amendment case this week involving Chicago-area in-home care providers that could end up dealing a major blow to public-sector labor unions. Illinois, California, Maryland, Connecticut and other states have long used Medicaid funds to pay salaries for in-home care workers to assist disabled adults who otherwise might have to be put in state institutions. The jobs were poorly paid and turnover was high. Over the last decade, more than 20,000 of these workers in Illinois voted to organize and won wage increases by joining the Service Employees International Union. But the National Right to Work Foundation, an anti-union advocacy group, sued Gov. Pat Quinn and the SEIU, accusing the state and union of conspiring to relabel private care providers as state employees so they could collect more union fees (Savage, 1/20). 

The Washington Post: Unions Circling The Wagons On Court Case
It was a "win-win-win" situation when home-care providers in Illinois unionized, says the lawyer who will represent the state and the public-employee union in Supreme Court arguments this week. Pay and benefits increased for the employees, the state negotiated with a unified and more stable workforce, and clients found that workers were more willing to stay in the demanding jobs, Washington lawyer Paul Smith said. Actually, says Patrick Semmens of the National Right to Work Committee, the whole thing was simply a “political payback” to the powerful public-employee unions (Barnes, 1/19). 

NPR: A Union For Home Health Aides Brings New Questions To Supreme Court
The U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments Tuesday in an Illinois case that could drive a stake through the heart of public employee unions. At issue are two questions: whether states may recognize a union to represent health care workers who care for disabled adults in their homes instead of in state institutions; and whether non-union members must pay for negotiating a contract they benefit from (Totenberg, 1/21).

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