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What The U.S. Supreme Court Ruling On Home Health Workers Means For Wash.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling on home health care workers in Illinois in the case of Harris v. Quinn could have an effect on the people who work in home care here in Washington state.

The high court ruled that home health aides in Illinois, who are covered by a collective bargaining agreement, cannot be required to pay union dues or fees, even though other public employees are.The court said the home health workers aren’t true public employees because they're hired by private individuals, even though they do bargain with the state.

It sounds very similar to how the system works here in Washington. But Service Employees International Union 775 (SEIU) spokesman Jackson Holtz says it’s really too early to tell. 

“We’re still analyzing this, but it may be they have different rights [in Illinois] than the workers rights in the state of Washington,” Holtz said.

But if it turns out it does apply to home care workers here, Seattle University Law School labor law expert Charlotte Garden says that could result in a big hit to SEIU here. Garden says if a lot of workers choose to opt out of paying fees for collective bargaining, it could have a big impact.

“The union won’t have the resources it needs to negotiate strong contracts, to represent workers in grievance administrations and things like that,” she said.

The Olympia-based Freedom Foundation, which has fought against what it calls the “forced unionization of home health care workers in Washington," issued a written statement, calling the Supreme Court ruling a significant step in the right direction.

Paula is a former host, reporter and producer who retired from KNKX in 2021. She joined the station in 1989 as All Things Considered host and covered the Law and Justice beat for 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.