Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Public employees, compulsory unionization, and the Church's social teachings

"Case could destroy pillar of union power," reports this piece in The Hill.  I have not done so yet, but I feel pretty confident that if I made a tour of the leading blogs dealing with Catholicism, politics, social teaching, and so on, I would find an argument to the effect that Catholic Social Teaching supports labor unions and, therefore, a First Amendment ruling that the Constitution limits the ability of government to require employees to join (and support financially) unions and their activities would be (whatever its legal merits) inconsistent with that Teaching.

Now, this case (Harris v. Quinn) -- SCOTUSBlog (natch) is a great resource for leaning more --  does not seem to present the usual agency-shop situation:  We are not talking about free-riding employees at a large company or business.  Instead, this case is about home-health-care workers -- who do their work in the home of those they serve (in some cases, family members). A while back, Illinois decided that these home-health-care workers were, for purposes of unionization, public employees.  

It is, obviously, a crucial aspect of the Church's social teaching that work and workers must be treated in accord with their dignity and that workers have a right to, among other things, associate so as to promote and protect their rights and interests.  None of this means that labor unions are always on the side of the angels -- too often, especially in the education context, they are not -- but it certainly means that, again, the right to form labor unions must be protected and respected.  But, it seems to me, this does not necessarily mean that home-health-care workers, simply because they are paid through Medicaid, constitutionally may or morally should be required to support financially a public-employee union.  Stay tuned. 


Garnett, Rick | Permalink