Freedom Foundation

Debate over SEIU bill characterized by hypocrisy, deception

As the debate over SB 6199 continues in Olympia, evidence continues to mount that the measure is nothing more than an attempt to boost SEIU 775’s membership.

The bill would privatize administration of the Medicaid home care system in Washington and, in the process, make the state’s 36,000 individual provider home care aides (IPs) private-sector employees, clearing the way for SEIU 775 to again force caregivers to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment. In so doing, the bill seeks to sidestep the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2014 ruling in Harris v. Quinn that, as “partial-public employees,” IPs can’t be required to financially support a union against their will.

Several incidents and data points have emerged in recent days conforming to two major themes: Deception and hypocrisy.

First, on the deception front, defenders of SB 6199 have consistently worked to avoid the scrutiny the legislation deserves, from attempting to pass the legislation in the Senate in the middle of the night to preventing opponents from testifying against the bill in committee.

Conducted by the House Appropriations Committee over the weekend, the final committee hearing to occur on SB 6199 in either legislative body was no exception.

The committee sent out notice at 10:44 p.m. Friday night that it would be conducting a 10am hearing the following morning. For those good at math, that’s less than 12 hours’ notice in the middle of the night. However, SB 6199 was not listed on the committee’s agenda at that time.

At 11:07 a.m. on Saturday — an hour after the committee hearing began — the committee sent out a notice that it was adding SB 6199 to its agenda for the day.

While the Freedom Foundation made it in time to testify against the bill, the late notice prevented many caregivers opposed to the legislation from having a chance to share their concerns. Unsurprisingly, representatives from SEIU 775 and the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) were there in plenty of time to express their support for the bill.

Second, during the hearing, the union lobbyist distributed a flyer claiming, among other things, that SB 6199 is supported by the Arc of Washington State, a nonprofit that advocates for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. However, the Arc has not testified publicly for or against the bill in the Legislature, and the Arc confirmed to the Freedom Foundation today that it does not currently have a position on the bill either way.

Third, switching to the hypocrisy front, SB 6199’s advocates continue to argue that the purpose of hiring a contractor to handle IPs’ employment administration is to free up case managers to spend more time monitoring clients.

This author put that notion to the test this weekend by encouraging the House Appropriations Committee to adopt an amendment to protect IPs’ current ability to choose whether to join SEIU 775 after the transition to the “consumer-directed employer,” thus proving it is working in good faith to improve the IP system and not simply serving union interests.

Rep Joe Schmick (R-Colfax) proposed such an amendment on Monday during the committee’s executive session on the bill. Unsurprisingly, it was voted down by the committee’s Democratic majority and the underlying bill passed on a straight, party-line vote. That answers that question.

Fourth, even as union-backed legislators support the costly, unaccountable, special-interest contracting out in SB 6199, they continue to adhere to their usual opposition to contracting out in other contexts.

For instance, HB 1851 would make it more difficult for the state to hire private contractors to provide state services. It is priority legislation for the Washington Federation of State Employees and is being advanced by the Democratic majority with little Republican support.

On Monday, Sen. John Braun (R-Centralia) offered an amendment to the bill in the Senate Ways and Means Committee that would have required DSHS to follow standard competitive bid procedures when selecting the contractor to serve as the “consumer-directed employer” under SB 6199. The amendment was rejected by the Democratic majority and the bill passed out of committee along party lines. The message: Contracting out is bad unless it costs taxpayers money, turns back the clock on workers’ rights and benefits special-interest cronies.

Fifth, a caregiver recently pointed out that the sponsor of HB 2963 (the House version of SB 6199), Rep. Eileen Cody (D-West Seattle), also sponsored HB 2361 in 2009, which effectively did the exact opposite of what Cody now seeks to do with SB 6199.

Before HB 2361’s passage, caregivers who were related to their clients could choose to work through a privately operated home care agency. At the time, IPs contracting directly with the state were required to financially support SEIU 775. However, because several of the home care agencies were not unionized, family caregivers wishing to avoid association with SEIU 775 could simply work through one of the nonunion agencies. HB 2361 foreclosed this option and required family caregivers for Medicaid recipients to contract with the state directly as IPs, effectively forcing all of them under SEIU 775.

Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has freed caregivers from unwanted financial attachments to SEIU 775 as “partial-public employees,” Cody and other union-backed legislators wish to reverse IPs’ legal status again and force them under a single — unionized — private-sector employer to allow SEIU to reinstate compelled dues payment.

Given such a record, it should come as no surprise that Cody is a “founding member” of SEIU 1199.

The House has until Friday to hold a vote on SB 6199.