Following on the heels of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision earlier this month in Harris v. Quinn and the Freedom Foundation’s pledge to make sure the ruling is enforced in Washington state, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 775 has begun allowing individual home healthcare providers to opt out of paying dues.
The Freedom Foundation recently obtained a letter from SEIU 775 to a home healthcare worker who had objected to paying dues. The form letter informs the objecting provider:
“In light of uncertainty created by the United State Supreme Court’s June 30, 2014, decision in Harris v. Quinn, the union has asked the state to cease deduction of your fair-share fees. No such fees will be deducted from your future paychecks.”
While agreeing to cease further deductions, the union noted that it is still “analyzing the potential effect of the court decision on our local union” and had not yet determined whether to refund unconstitutionally collected fees. In light of Harris, state subsidized child care providers in Michigan are suing to recoup union fees paid under a similar scheme.
Still, the scope of the SEIU’s decision remains unclear. Union members in good standing will continue to pay full dues and workers who formally object to paying dues will no longer be required to. However, there are potentially thousands of home healthcare workers who have never signed a union membership form but nevertheless, under state law, have full dues automatically deducted from their Medicaid reimbursements.
Most likely, the union will continue to deduct full dues from these nonmembers until they request otherwise.
Many of these workers are likely unaware of their new options. So far, SEIU 775 has made no public mention of its decision. Meanwhile, analysts have observed that only about 100,000 home care workers nationwide report being members of a union, while the SEIU alone claims 600,000 such members—meaning that many likely do not even know that they are represented by a union.
“While we’re glad to see that SEIU 775 has wisely decided to acknowledge the requests of workers who do not wish to support the union, we will not assume that the union will undertake any effort to inform workers of their new rights,” said Freedom Foundation labor policy analyst Max Nelsen. “We continue to encourage the full implementation of the Harris decision in Washington.”
There are a variety of reasons home healthcare providers may want to disassociate from the union. Federal reports indicate that workers paying dues to SEIU 775 are supporting a wide range of expenditures unrelated to collective bargaining.
In just the past two years, the local union has spent $1.2 million on travel and airfare, more than $1 million on hotels, including a nearly $40,000 junket at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, and nearly a quarter million on restaurants, including nearly $14,000 spent at an Olympia wine bar and billed as “representational activity.”
The union has also bankrolled a host of controversial organizations and causes, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in membership dues to support Democratic candidates and nearly every progressive organization in the state.
Likewise, the union’s national headquarters, which SEIU 775 members also pay dues to support, spent heavily on Democratic candidates and Progressive causes, including $100,000 spent on Obama’s inauguration and $50,000 contributed to Planned Parenthood.
The Freedom Foundation has prepared a letter that may be used by individual home healthcare providers who do not wish to pay dues to SEIU 775. Individuals who believe they may be affected by the Harris decision can learn more about the ruling here.