Mt. Vernon Register-News

Opinion

July 2, 2014

Court decision has far-reaching results

Pam Harris is just a Lake County mom looking after her disabled adult son.

She’s not a particularly political person.

But on Monday, she shook the very foundations of labor law in the United States when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in her favor.

Her case speaks volumes about the power of an ordinary person to make a difference in our society.

In a state as cynical as Illinois, it’s easy to pooh poo folks like Harris.

After all, how much of a difference can one person really make when taking on the political establishment?

Well, in Harris’ case, quite a lot.

At issue was whether she should be forced to join a union.

Rather than place her son, Josh, in an institution, she entered a program where she receives state assistance to care for him at home.

But one Sunday morning, an organizer for Service Employees International Union knocked on her front door and asked her to vote to join a union.

At first she was perplexed. She’s not a state worker. She’s just a mom, doing what moms do: caring for her child.

And SEIU is one of the largest, politically powerful labor organizations in the nation.

But if a majority of home care workers voted to join the union, she would have to give money to the union — whether she wanted to belong or not.

Harris stood up to the union and helped defeat it in a vote.

But she knew that wasn’t the end of the story. The union could just keep coming back and calling for more votes.

And Pam Harris didn’t think she should have to give money to some union boss in order to care for her son.

So Harris sued the state, which had helped facilitate the union’s organization attempts.

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