Freedom Foundation

Caregiver takes on SEIU on King 5

SEIU 775 claims it “represents” 36,000 Medicaid-paid individual provider (IP) home care aides in Washington. This may be true in a legal sense, but it doesn’t mean the union speaks for caregivers like Melissa Santiago.

This week, Santiago sat down with King-5 TV news to explain her opposition to SB 6199/HB 2963, an SEIU-backed proposal that would permit the union to force caregivers to pay union dues again, effectively taking away their right to make their own decisions about union membership.

In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Harris v. Quinn struck down requirements in states like Washington that forced “partial-public employees” like home caregivers to pay union dues as a condition of caring for Medicaid-eligible clients.

The legislation would side-step Harris by privatizing the administration of the IP program and making IPs into private-sector employees. As such, they would fall under the National Labor Relations Act, which does not protect employees against being fired for refusing to support a union.

Opposition to the changes has continued to build as more caregivers learn about the bill’s implications.

When a group of IPs joined the Freedom Foundation on Tuesday to speak out against SB 6199 at a hearing of the House Health Care and Wellness Committee, the committee chair, Rep. Eileen Cody (D-West Seattle), allowed SEIU 775 and other proponents to testify but ended the hearing without permitting most caregivers and the Freedom Foundation to testify.

But that hasn’t prevented hundreds of IPs like Santiago from contacting their legislators directly or speaking out in other ways, like going on television.

“The union wants to mandate me to pay dues and have a union,” Santiago told the Freedom Foundation. “I need the support of the state to block union dues as a mandate so that I can continue to afford to care for my daughter at home.”

SEIU 775 initially attempted to obscure its support for the legislation. At the union’s urging, the bill was formally requested by Gov. Jay Inslee, who has benefited from millions of dollars in SEIU campaign spending, and the Department of Social and Health Services. SEIU 775 lobbyists didn’t testify in favor of the bill at committee hearings earlier in the legislative session.

However, as the Freedom Foundation, Senate Republicans and the media have exposed the legislation as a special-interest payback, SEIU 775 has had to become more vocal in its support. The union’s secretary-treasurer, Adam Glickman, testified in favor of the bill at Tuesday’s committee hearing.

In a recent interview with the Seattle Times, SEIU 775 president David Rolf was asked whether SB 6199 was an effort to “require (IPs) to be members of the union,” to which Rolf responded, “Anything that allows for stronger unions… is obviously good in and of itself… We’re for it.”

The only question is whether lawmakers will do what’s good for union executives like Rolf, or whether they’ll listen to the voices of actual caregivers like Melissa. The state is watching.

Watch Santiago’s King 5 interview here.