Mom proud of pursuing problem all the way to SCOTUS

Published 01/21 2014 12:20PM

Updated 01/21 2014 12:24PM

SPRINGFIELD -- An Illinois mom is taking her case to the nation's highest court. She's an at-home caregiver for her disabled son and the state wants her to join a union. She sued and now the Supreme Court will hear arguments in her case Tuesday. WCIA-3's Steve Staeger has more of her story.

Pam Harris is paid through a Medicaid waiver which allows her to care for her adult son who needs round-the-clock care. The state says she's a public employee and wants her to join a union. Harris says she should have the choice.

"Josh is 25 years old. He has Rubins DaTabase, which is a rare genetic syndrome. Like most people with it, Josh is affected cognitively."

Over the past 25 years, Harris has had two titles; Mom and full-time caregiver. A waiver from Medicaid helps pay for her son's care.

"He requires care in all of his daily activiti4es, 24-hour supervision."

In 2009, Harris got a surprise.

"We didn't learn about the Executive Order form Governor Quinn. Instead, we learned about it when the SEIU knocked on our front door."

That executive order declared at-home care workers, even moms and dads, as public employees. It allows unions to organize them; unions like SEIU.

"To me, the idea of unionization in the family home is inconsistent. It's incompatible. It's intrusive and it's going to interfere in our care that we provide Josh."

Harris and other caregivers voted the unions down and sued the state. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in that case this week.

Harris spoke via Skype.

"I never intended to speak out against the right for people to unionize. What I object to is our governor signing an executive order compelling unionization on a group that doesn't want it."

But, some healthcare workers, who decided to join unions on their own, say there are benefits like access to healthcare. Still, Harris says she wants the choice and she's willing to keep fighting until she gets it.

"It is humbling to be part of this process. To know that this mom from Illinois can raise her hand and say, 'Excuse me, I object. I think that this is wrong. I think that this is violating our rights.' And to have that objection make it all the way to the highest court, it's an honor."

The Quinn Administration is not commenting on the case since it's pending a decision in the Supreme Court. It did file a brief though, more or less stating the suit jumps the gun since Harris isn't even part of any union yet.

The Supreme Court will likely not rule on this case until June. There's a long list of cases ahead of it. The court is expected to rule on campaign contribution limits, Michigan's ban on affirmative action in higher education and the constitutionality of legislative prayer.

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