The Supreme Court on Monday issued a wide-ranging opinion that will heavily impact the future of labor in America. The majority opinion in Harris v. Quinn held that home healthcare workers in Illinois and every other state that has a similar program are only “partial” or “quasi” public employees—as opposed to “full-fledged public employees”—and thus don't have to pay fees for labor representation. While the majority, led by Justice Samuel Alito, did not go so far as to fully gut the ability of public sector unions to finance their existence, the decision in the case was by no means a moderate one. Harris v. Quinn has set the stage for the eventual overruling of Abood; it has confused and perverted the concept of free-riders; and it has created an impossible standard for unions to meet.
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By a 5-4 decision, the usual conservative Supreme Court majority today struck a blow against public-sector unions by ruling for the petitioners in a case called Harris v. Quinn. Most of the press coverage focuses on the worrisome implications for collective bargaining. I have little to add in that conversation, significant as it surely is. But I am sorry to see this decision for some more specific reasons, as well.
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The long-established schoolyard ethnography of “The Breakfast Club” tell us that jocks and nerds are supposed to have little in common. But on the university campus, these two disparate groups have found a vital shared interest: unionization. Grad students and college athletes are now challenging the norms and regulations that keep them underpaid and overburdened. In April scholarship football players at Northwestern University voted to form a union. Although the results of their drive are still being decided by the National Labor Relations Board in a process that is likely to take months to resolve, their push for unionization could set a precedent for Division I athletes at private institutions across the country.
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TCF fellow Moshe Marvit takes an in-depth look at possible next steps for the United Auto Workers after it's close loss in an election to represent Volkswagen workers in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Read the full piece at In These Times.
TCF senior fellow Richard Kahlenberg and fellow Moshe Marvit argue that the best way to respect the legacy of the Civil Rights Act on its 50th anniversary is to add union rights to it. Read the full artcle at The New Republic.
In recent decades, and especially since 2000, the richest Americans have enjoyed soaring income and wealth while the rest of the population's living standards have stagnated. The Century Foundation was one of the first institutions to raise serious concerns about these trends and propose ideas for improving economic conditions for all Americans- not just the fortunate few.
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