Frequently Asked Questions about Harris v. Quinn - Supreme Court Spring 2014

Frequently Asked Questions about Harris v. Quinn

Courtesy of AFSCME*

What is the Supreme Court case Harris v. Quinn about?

The case, Harris v. Quinn, was brought by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation (NRTW), an extreme right-wing group with a political agenda to weaken the power of working people.  The NRTW lawsuit started as an attack against Illinois home care workers, but has grown into a challenge of the right of  those employed in the public service,  including home care workers, to come together and form a union that will be their bargaining representative, to negotiate over matters that are commonly negotiated over, like wage, benefits and other conditions of employment, and to require that nonmembers pay their fair share of the cost of collective bargaining and representation of the workers. 

The NRTW also is asking the Supreme Court to bar other independent providers, like family child care providers, from forming a union by arguing that independent providers are independent contractors—and not public service employees—who cannot bargain collectively. The lower courts have rejected this argument.

Why has this case been brought forward?

This case is the latest in a decades-long, extremist right-wing attack on the rights of working people to join together to improve their jobs and the quality of services they provide to seniors, people with disabilities and children.

What are the implications of the case on income inequality and economic justice?

A bad decision will drive down the wages and the basic rights of public sector workers including home care providers and compromise the quality of care for seniors and people with disabilities. Public workers everywhere could have fewer resources to stand up for good jobs and quality care and have their collective bargaining rights eliminated or greatly diminished.

How could this case affect the people that home care workers care for?

As our country grapples with an escalating long term care crisis, a bad decision will endanger the most basic choice of every aging American—to choose to live at home instead of an institution—by making it harder to build a stable workforce of home care workers

Who is the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation?

The National Right to Work Committee and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation have been the leaders of the anti-union movement for nearly six decades. The National Right to Work organizations have strong connections to the national right-wing network, including to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the Koch brothers, Americans for Prosperity, the Cato Institute, the Republican National Committee, and the State Policy Network (SPN). They also have a history of running attack ads through their  501 ( c) 4 entity and related PACS against candidates they have deemed insufficiently anti-union. In 2012, the National Right to Work organizations spend over $21m and raised over $25m in revenue.

When do we expect a decision from the Supreme Court on Harris v. Quinn?

The decision could come at any point between now and late June. We won’t know until the morning of the decision.

NFG’s Working Group on Labor and Community Partnerships, with with our union allies, will keep our members and friends informed via webinar and email after decision. 

*AFSCME is the American Federal, State, County, Municipal Employees union, the nation’s largest public services employees union of more than 1.6 million working and retired members.