December 2, 2013

Public employee “collective bargaining” = lobbying

By Deborah J. La Fetra Senior Attorney

In Harris v. Quinn, the Supreme Court will determine the constitutionality of an Illinois executive order and law that declares all personal home assistants to be public employees, for the sole purpose of being represented by a collective bargaining unit of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) that seeks to lobby for greater government spending (Medicaid) on home healthcare.  PLF, along with the Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence and others, filed an amicus brief arguing that compelling personal care providers to be deemed public employees for the purpose of being represented by a union violates the First Amendment guarantee that Americans cannot be compelled to speak or associate, or petition the government, against their wishes.

PLF argues that a public employees union’s “collective bargaining” function is indistinguishable from any other lobbying activities.  Public employees often find their roles as employees in conflict with their identities as citizens and taxpayers.  Public funding necessarily involves trade-offs, and unions—representing only one side of the debate—should not have the ability to coerce employee-citizens to support the union’s position.

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