For more than three years now, the Freedom Foundation has diligently worked to expose serial union corruption. This, in turn, has resulted in serious pushback from the unions, including dozens of lawsuits and smear campaigns launched against the organization.
And the game continues. In recent litigation, for example, the Freedom Foundation found shocking examples of SEIU 775 using coercion, manipulation and outright lies against its members.
SEIU 775 represents state-paid individual providers (IPs) who assist Medicaid-eligible disabled and elderly individuals in their homes. In many cases, the providers selflessly put their own careers and lives on hold to care for a loved one and help them avoid the expensive alternative of institutional care.
But where you or I might see someone who deserves our respect and gratitude for making an enormous sacrifice, organized labor sees only dollar signs.
For many years, anyone who wanted to become an IP was required to pay dues or fees to a labor union – despite the fact that, in this arrangement, the "employer" was actually the patient and the "workplace" is the home where both usually live.
The rules changed, however, when a 2014 Supreme Court decision – Harris v. Quinn – affirmed the IPs' right to choose for themselves whether to financially support SEIU 775.
To help unions circumvent the court's ruling, the state agreed to a provision in its collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the unions that permits SEIU 775 to participate in the "contracting appointments" for new IPs.
Under this new arrangement, the first 15 minutes of what should be a Department of Social and Health (DSHS) training session is turned over to SEIU 775, which spends the taxpayer-funded minutes bullying attendees to sign a membership card.
The Freedom Foundation has heard countless firsthand accounts how the union uses high-pressure tactics to achieve its goals during meetings with IPs.
With an outrageous 3.2 percent of each and every IP's paychecks at stake, the unions play for keeps.
In a letter to the Office of Financial Management (OFM) Labor Relations Office dated May 6, 2016, SEIU 775 deputy director of member programs and participation, filed a grievance against a DSHS case manager for "interrupt(ing) union times during IP orientations and express(ing) to providers opinions against the union."
This "violation" supposedly was prohibited under the CBA, Articles 2.6 and 3.
In a May 26, 2016 e-mail to the administrator for the Division of Aging and Long Term Care, the Division Director of Aging and Disability Services (ADS) described a complaint she received from an ADS staffer about SEIU representatives during several IP orientation meetings.
In the e-mail, the Director of ADS characterized one of the SEIU union reps as aggressive and unprofessional. SEIU staff members reportedly showed up late or not at all to orientation meetings, and interrupting the ADS staff while they are presenting to IPs.
Interestingly, the e-mail attachment of the ADS staffer's complaint is also a response to a complaint filed against her by a union rep for interrupting union time during two orientation meetings.
The three incidents described by the ADS staffer shed significant light on the corrupt behavior of SEIU 775 employees. The ADS staffer claims she entered the training room to check on the status of the union time portion of the meeting. When she entered, one of the potential IPs asked the union organizer a question, and the organizer responded by directing the individual to call the SEIU information hotline for an answer.
The ADS staffer then asked why she couldn't answer the question on the spot. The organizer responded rudely, and the ADS staffer left the room. Once the union rep left, the ADS staffer returned to conduct her portion of the meeting. At that point,
"…all of the potential IPs expressed that the Union Rep was very aggressive and forceful in making them sign the union application and did not answer their questions. A few potential IPs said that Union Rep disclosed that she is currently caring for her elderly mother and personal life stories instead of answering their questions" (Errors in original)
At a separate contracting appointment, the same ADS staffer recalled that, in the middle of her contracting meeting, another union rep showed up very late and demanded to conduct their portion of the meeting at that moment.
The ADS staffer asked for 15 minutes to finish the section she was on, but the organizer demanded to be given their time for the session, "…even if ADS has to stop during mid-contracting."
When the ADS staffer returned to the room, she mentioned that the potential IPs commented that,
"Union Rep X was aggressive and rushed them to complete the Union application before they read the application. The rep even made the potential IPs sign a sign-in roster with their name, address, email and phone#" (Errors in original)
At a third contracting appointment, after the union rep finished up the union time, the ADS staffer entered the room to begin training the single potential IP present. However, the ADS staffer was unable to continue the meeting for some time because the potential IP was extremely upset by the conduct of the union rep.
The ADS staffer offered the following description of the interaction:
"I started my contracting session with a potential IP but couldn't because potential IP started rambling about how she felt she had signed something which she didn't understand or should not have completed. Potential IP said she didn't understand who rep X was and thought it was part of the contracting session. I had to explain to potential IP that ADS cannot say anything or be in the same room while a union rep is present. Potential IP was frustrated how she felt forced into signing the union application and proceed to ask me about Union questions. I told her she needed to call SEIU because ADS, again, cannot interfere in answering any union questions. Potential IP started expressing her concern that she had signed something which she did not understand and was pressured into signing the application. I asked her why she didn't read the fine print before signing it. Potential IP said she was trying to read the paragraphs but rep X kept telling her to sign the application. Potential IP could not calm down due to frustration and I sounded like a broken record by kept reminding her to contact SEIU with her concerns. Potential IP did not stop feeling agitate so I went to get a glass of water for her. When I came back, potential IP could not stop complaining about how she felt misled and tricked." (Errors in original)
Despite the obvious unprofessional and abusive tactics employed by union reps during several orientation meetings, it was the ADS staff member's behavior that was questioned.
Later in the year, the Labor Relations Section Chief for OFM responded to SEIU's grievance against the ADS staffer. The Section Chief referenced a grievance meeting in which the situation was mediated and resolved, indicating no further action was necessary.
Throughout, she noted that the ADS staffer sent a written apology and conceded that "the case manager did not understand or demonstrate the proper behavior towards the union representative and the potential IPs in the two situations at issue."
No mention was made of the staffer's letter describing in detail the actual events, including the union representative's unprofessional and aggressive behavior towards the potential IPs.
No attempt was made to defend the staffer against a grievance filed according to an indefensible CBA article. Rather than hold the union accountable for its improper behavior, the state made every effort to placate the union and place the blame on the state worker trying to help IPs.
Unfortunately, these incidents are far from isolated.
In a Nov. 8, 2016, e-mail to DSHS/ALTSA staff, an administrator with the Division of Aging & Long Term Care, wrote:
"I want to share a troubling interaction that occurred earlier today at X with two SEIU representatives coercing an IP into union membership.
X and X, SEUI Union Reps, came this morning for the group IP appointment – we only had one IP scheduled. The office supervisor assigned a LTC Support Staff to sit in the appointment and be silent through the SEIU introduction. This is the standard protocol for AAA staff. Once the presentation is completed, our staff then begin the contract processing with IPs.
Both SEIU Reps stated the appointment was private and no AAA staff could be in the room. They were rude and demanding to the X staff. This is the first demanding interaction X staff have experienced from SEIU reps. As a result, no X staff attended the meeting. After SEIU Reps departed, the IP was seen crying and complaining of feeling sick. She shared that she felt "coerced and intimidated" into signing the SEIU membership forms.
She reported to X staff that she did not want to sign the union membership forms due to costs. She stated that she told this numerous times to the SEIU Reps in the meeting. (Please see the attached scanned hand written letter from the IP about her interaction).
We instructed the IP to call SEIU and let them know what happened; she needs to explain that she doesn't want to be a member of the union and was forced to sign.
Shortly after leaving our office, the IP called our office to share that she called the union and received a similar negative response. As part of the conversation, the IP requested to talk to the Supervisor, and was told there is nothing SEIU can do. They did not reverse the membership status.
The IP feels stuck. She doesn't want to be a union member due to how she was treated. We let her know that we would be reporting her experience to ALTSA staff. She would like assistance with cancelling her union membership" (Errors and emphasis in original)
The note written by the potential IP adds further evidence:
"I felt completely uncomfortable, like I was forced to sign up for the union. After they explained themselves about the union I had told them no I didn't want too and they had told me I needed to because of the benefits and because it's to help my grandmother and make sure she's taken care of. Basically made me feel bad about not wanting to join the union. And completely made me sign up and told me she only had one minute left and I needed to sign up. Told me I should donate because the people in Olympia are billionaires and they aren't and they need the money. And I unwillingly signed it and I did not want to." (Errors in original)
In a Nov. 11, 2016, grievance letter to a collective bargaining and employer relations specialist with SEIU 775 describes yet another incident of the union presentation being interrupted by an ADS staffer. Further, they claimed the staffer "inappropriately advised members" during this session. Articles 2.3 and 3 of the CBA were again cited as authority to advise Ms. Mitchell to "cease and desist" all inappropriate behavior. An additional letter sent by Ms. Yi alleged a further violation by a state staffer for interrupting the union presentation by "ending the presentation before the full fifteen-minutes."
In a November 22, 2016 e-mail an administrator for the Division of Aging and Long Term Care, responded to the grievance, stating:
"I can confirm on X X staff (X) did attend the 15 minute SEIU presentation. There were two IPs in attendance. Ms. Hart reported to me that she did make a statement that "membership was optional" during the SEIU presentation in response to an IP question. This information was not provided by the SEIU representative during the presentation nor in the answer to the IP question, therefore Ms. Hart made the statement.
As of November 9, 2016, X staff have been instructed by their supervisor to not attend the SEIU presentation. This step was taken after receiving information from you about Best Practice and not attending future SEIU presentations. I feel this proactive measure ensures a better working relationship with all parties.
I do have concerns that the SEIU representative, X, is involved in both incidents – X and November 8. It was reported to me by X staff that Ms. X did come to the X for a group IP appointment on X X, after I was notified she would not be attending group appointments while the November 8th incidence was under review. We did not have any IPs attend the X group appointment. X left without incident."
The Freedom Foundation's work to hold the unions accountable for this kind of corruption is absolutely essential if IPs are to be protected against ridiculous bullying by SEIU 775.
IPs have been wrongly coerced into giving up their rights for too long. Far from representing IPs against wrongs in the workplace (which it can't do anyways), SEIU 775 exists purely to take more money from caregivers and increase its own power.
Despite its attempts to distract its members, silently force them into giving up basic rights, and doing anything and everything to crush the Freedom Foundation, SEIU can't hide any longer.
We will continue to fight to tell people the truth at all costs – because people deserve to know.