The Freedom Foundation scored another victory this week in its quest to protect the First Amendment rights of the state's individual homecare providers.
Individual providers, who receive Medicaid funding to provide care to the elderly and disabled, had been forced under the collective bargaining agreement between Washington state and SEIU to listen to SEIU representatives who regurgitate the union's views on matters of public concern, solicit membership and request donations to political committees.
The CBA provides SEIU representatives sole and exclusive access to providers when they undergo required contracting appointments, basic training and continuing education classes. Providers were forced to sit through such propaganda sessions — until the Freedom Foundation sued, arguing that the meetings violated providers' First Amendment right against compelled speech.
On April 4, in direct response to the Freedom Foundation's lawsuit, the state and SEIU agreed to a settlement under which providers' meetings with union representatives would no longer be mandatory. Instead, both parties agreed that "individual providers will not be required to meet with union representatives and will suffer no discrimination or retaliation as a result of their choice to meet or not to meet."
Moreover, union representatives will be prohibited from "urging support or opposition to any political candidate or ballot measure." For the first time in the history of collective bargaining between SEIU and the state of Washington, providers are now explicitly provided the choice to listen to pro-union speech. Or not.
Simply put, the Freedom Foundation caught the state and SEIU red-handed violating providers' First Amendment rights. And they knew it.
Not only is this a victory for providers' First Amendment rights, it is also an acknowledgment from the state and SEIU that they knew they were violating the law. The government simply cannot force people to receive political speech, in a coercive atmosphere, in a manner calculated to directly benefit SEIU.
The state's wholesale revision of the mandatory meetings provisions serves as a concession of its wrongdoing. The Freedom Foundation will continue to fight to ensure that providers' rights are protected to the fullest extent.