The Supreme Court ruling that struck down coercive union membership among Illinois home health workers could cost unions tens of millions of dollars, according to labor observers.

The court ruled 5-4 that Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D.) violated the First Amendment when he forced home health care workers, many of whom were caring for sick family members, to pay union dues. The ruling will impact the SEIU and AFSCME, the two unions that earned millions from the scheme, according to Paul Kersey of the Illinois Policy Institute.

“There’s $20 million a year they are used to getting from home care people and [home] daycare people and they won’t be receiving that soon,” he said. “This should bring an end to that.”

Pamela Harris, a 52-year-old woman who collects several hundred Medicaid dollars each month to care for her disabled child, sued the state after discovering that a portion of the Medicaid payments was being siphoned off to the SEIU, a major Democratic donor. Quinn, continuing a policy put in place by imprisoned former Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D.), decided that mothers like Harris could be classified as state employees and be forced into the union.

The Supreme Court majority agreed with Harris’ argument that she was not a state employee and was thus ineligible for union membership. The ruling did not surprise David Phippen, a management-side labor attorney at Constangy, Brooks, & Smith.

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