Legal fight pits Quinn against home caregivers of disabled relatives

The ABC7 I-Team has learned of a legal fight pitting Governor Pat Quinn against families with loved ones who have disabilities.
January 16, 2014 8:39:31 PM PST
The ABC7 I-Team has learned of a legal fight pitting Governor Pat Quinn against families with loved ones who have disabilities.

The issue is whether those families be considered public employees. This is about a government-funded program that subsidizes families who care for disabled relatives at home instead of having them institutionalized.

Five years ago Gov. Quinn designated those home providers-- including family members-- as public employees, allowing a union to organize them, a union that backs the governor. It's now headed to the supreme court.

"Every night I pray please God, let me live one more day than Josh," said Pam Harris, Josh's mother and caretaker.

Josh Harris, 25, has Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome compounded by physical disabilities and mental illness. His family is in the Illinois home-based support services program which allows disabled adults to live in their homes. The state and federal governments pay home healthcare workers a monthly stipend, far less than what an institution costs, and Josh is able to live at home.

In January 2009, Governor Quinn signed an executive stating these home care givers-- even moms and dads-- are public employees available to be unionized by Illinois' Service Employees International. Those who didn't want to join the union would still have to pay for representation. "What we are talking about is unionizing family members, parents in a home. For me, that is inconsistent and intrusive and will interfere with Josh's care," said Pam Harris.

She and other disability program members voted the union down and sued Quinn in a class-action lawsuit that will be heard at the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday. If the court rules Quinn was wrong in declaring home-care providers public employees, unions could lose several hundred thousand members across the country.

Flora Johnson is a union officer and a mother who cares for her 47-year-old disabled son Kenneth under a similar state program.

"We can have a voice with SEIU, negotiating, have healthcare insurance, which we never had before we had a union. I would say the union is a Godsend blessing," said Johnson.

Suburban State Representative Jim Durkin says if home care providers don't want to unionize they shouldn't have to, and the ABC7 I-Team has learned that Durkin has filed this resolution to accomplish that.

"I think the message has been sent that this is not the place for this type of program, that government should stay out of it," said Rep. Durkin.

During his political career, Quinn has taken nearly $5 million in campaign contributions from the service employees union.

"A couple weeks after the executive order was signed and the union campaign began, there was Governor Quinn on TV with the SEIU banner behind him and the SEIU leadership behind him, and I couldn't help but think that this was an exchange, a deal," said Pam Harris.

But Johnson disagrees and thinks Quinn's action helps workers.

"Since SEIU has been involved, we have really made tremendous progress having a stable workforce for the people with disabilities, seniors and people with other medical disorders," said Johnson.

The governor and the state attorney general declined TV interviews prior to next week's oral arguments in Washington. The governor's Illinois brief contends Pam Harris and the others jumped the gun and shouldn't be able to file a lawsuit until their group actually pays union dues.

Additional information:
Original case filing of Harris v Quinn
7th Circuit Court of Appeals 2011 decision on Harris v Quinn
Illinois Attorney General's filing from last month on behalf of Governor Quinn re: Harris v Quinn

Rep. James Durkin's House Resolution for Governor Quinn to reconsider his 2009 executive order


2 WHEREAS, In June of 2009, the Governor issued Executive
3 Order 15, which allows collective bargaining by individual
4 providers of home-based support services; and

5 WHEREAS, The Home-Based Services Program provides services
6 to individuals with severe disabilities who need help with
7 daily living activities in order to remain in their communities
8 and live as independently as possible; and

9 WHEREAS, Many of the individual providers of home-based
10 support services are parents who are providing services to
11 their children; and

12 WHEREAS, Continuity of care is important for profoundly
13 disabled individuals who are served in the program; even a
14 minor change in the care provided can have a significant
15 negative impact on the disabled individual; and

16 WHEREAS, The payments given to parents who provide services
17 to their disabled children do not meet the cost of providing
18 care; and

19 WHEREAS, The organization of providers of home-based
20 support services could decrease the resources that are

HR0745 - 2 - LRB098 15353 GRL 52340 r

1 available to parents to provide necessary care to their
2 disabled children; and

3 WHEREAS, Executive Order 15 does not have a regulatory
4 sunset date, and it could allow for repeat and continuous
5 elections; and

6 WHEREAS, On October 19, 2009, individual providers of
7 home-based support services rejected organizational efforts
8 with 66% of the vote; and

9 WHEREAS, Harris v. Quinn (656 F.3d 692) will be before the
10 United States Supreme Court on January 21, 2014, challenging
11 whether or not a state may compel personal care providers to
12 accept and financially support a private organization as their
13 exclusive representative; and

14 WHEREAS, The State of Illinois must listen to the will of
15 the individual providers of home-based support services;
16 therefore, be it

19 we urge the Governor to reconsider Executive Order 15; and be
20 it further

HR0745 - 3 - LRB098 15353 GRL 52340 r

1 RESOLVED, That we express our opinion that an objective
2 reconsideration of Executive Order 15 would lead to the
3 withdrawal of the gubernatorial order, as it does not reflect
4 the attitudes and desires of the individual providers of
5 home-based support services that the order sought to help; and
6 be it further

7 RESOLVED, That a suitable copy of this resolution be
8 presented to the Governor of the State of Illinois.