Executive orders by Governors Rod Blagojevich (2003) and Pat Quinn (2009) turned 20,000 self-employed home-care workers into dues paying Services Employees International Union (SEIU) members. The Supreme Court will weigh in on this power grab which could be the most important case this term. The Wall Street Journal points out here:
Ten states have similar arrangements, which have proliferated as union membership has fallen to 6.6% of the private workforce. As fewer workers voluntarily join unions, the unions have relied ever more on state coercion. There were 1.9 million U.S. home-care workers in 2010, with that number expected to reach over three million by 2020. Some 475,000 are unionized.
The Illinois legal defense is that there is a state interest in unionization based on the “labor peace” doctrine that goes back to the earliest days of the union movement. There may have been such a government interest when, say, a railroad strike threatened nationwide commerce in the early 1900s. But the Cato Institute and National Federation of Independent Business argue persuasively in an amicus brief that the “labor peace” rationale does not trump First Amendment rights. And it hardly applies to home-care workers who operate independently or in small groups with no bearing on statewide commerce.
In Knox v. SEIU in 2012, the Justices ruled that forced unionization deserves a high level of First Amendment scrutiny. “Mandatory associations are permissible only when they serve a ‘compelling state interes[t] . . . that cannot be achieved through means significantly less restrictive of associational freedoms.'” Let’s hope the High Court follows this logic to find Illinois’s forced unionization unconstitutional.