While so many good women (and a lot of good men) were howling about the Supreme's Hobby Lobby decision this week, let's not forget the court's other major holding on Monday. Harris v. Quinn follows the pattern long established in our history: it is a seemingly race-neutral legal determination that will particularly harm women of color. What a shock!
Ostensibly the decision was about whether, under union collective bargaining contracts, home care workers could be required to pay union dues if they benefitted from union-won labor agreements. The 5-4 court majority adopted the fiction that, although the home care program in question was organized by the state of Illinois (using federal funds), the individual elderly and disabled clients were the "employers" and so unionized workers were not really "workers" like other state employees. Consequently these economically stressed women must be allowed to opt out of paying union dues, undercutting their union's ability to service their members.
All that is somewhat complicated and probably not a death blow to unionization of domestic workers -- mostly because such workers have been self-organizing vigorously for years.
But the decision deliberately disrespects work more and more performed by women of color. Sheila Bapat explains:
But hey, five Supremes (all men) seem to think this is just about some whining, lazy Black and Latina ladies -- not real workers.
The National Domestic Workers Alliance issued a response to the Harris decision. Here are some highlights: