Commentary | Unions and Labor Standards

Harris v. Quinn is a Blow to the Economically Vulnerable

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In today’s majority opinion in Harris v. Quinn, the Supreme Court turned back the clock on hundreds of thousands of home care and child care workers who have managed to improve their work lives through collective bargaining.  Thanks to union contracts that include anti-free rider provisions, this almost entirely female workforce has made huge improvements in wages and benefits, in training, and in respect in the states that provide for collective bargaining. The Court gives this no value and says the right of the free riders to have the benefits of union contracts without having to pay anything for them is the preeminent constitutional value. The Court majority’s balancing of interests is skewed: the right to vote democratically for a union contract that holds everyone to the same obligation and makes improved wages and working conditions possible is more important than the right to get something for nothing. No court decision can put an end to efforts to improve the lives of these economically vulnerable workers, but the decision in Harris v Quinn is a step backward.


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