One brave mom: Pam Harris’ fight against IL and unions nears its end


By Benjamin Yount | Illinois Watchdog

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — It has always been about her son. It always will be.

THE DECIDERS: The Supreme Court will hear arguments on forced unionization in Illinois.

Pam Harris, the Illinois mom who stood up to union thuggery and her state government, said she never wanted to be the face of the fight against forced unionization.

“The mission has never changed,” Harris told Illinois Watchdog. “That’s to do what’s right for Josh. That has always been my goal, to do what’s right for Josh.”

Harris’ son, Josh, has a rare genetic condition, Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome, and spends most of his days in a wheelchair. He lives at home with Harris, who is his primary care giver.

Harris fought hard to stop Service Employees International Union from squeezing some of her son’s Social Security money out of her family.

The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Tuesday on whether the forced unionization of families like Harris’ is legal.

Illinois made it legal through an executive order in 2009.

With backing from SEIU and Illinois’ other massive public employee union, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn OK’ed Executive Order 15.

The order classifies parents like Harris as “public employees,” but only for the sake of collective bargaining, and SEIU and AFSCME can try and organize them.

Paul Kersey, director of labor policy for the Illinois Policy Institute, said that order from the governor unleashed public employee unions on moms like Harris.

“These aren’t government employees. These are private citizens who take care of disabled family members. No matter how you might feel about unions, they went too far this time. Trying to unionize families was a gross overreach,” Kersey said.

Harris said she realized the unions had gone too far the moment SEIU first arrived at her door.

“I’m not going to be the face of a national anti-union movement. I’m just a mom trying to do what’s right for her son,” Harris said.

The central question before the Supreme Court is whether fair share laws, which require non-union members to pay union dues, trump someone’s First Amendment right to free speech (and right to not be in a union.)

Kersey said if the high court sides with Harris, the implications will be far reaching.

“It would mean that unionizing families is a violation of their First Amendment rights guaranteed by the Constitution. The Supreme Court will be taking a closer look at how government unions operate and the far-reaching problems that our labor laws create,” Kersey added.

Harris said a Supreme Court decision will simply mean she can be a mom once again.

“Every night I pray to God that I live one day longer than Josh. He is my first thought in the morning and my last thought before I fall asleep at night,” Harris said. “I want to once again be able to turn all of my attention to Josh.”

Contact Benjamin Yount at and find him on Twitter @BenYount.

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