Freedom Foundation

Mandatory training bill could give union more ‘captive-audience’ time

In the years following the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2014 Harris v. Quinn ruling, unions have found a variety of ways to work around its stated objective.

Rather than ensuring Medicaid-compensated home caregivers can no longer be forced to pay union dues or fees, the unions are busily hatching schemes that either prevent workers from knowing about their newly affirmed rights or make it nearly impossible to exercise them.

Most notably in Oregon, SEIU 503 created membership applications that lock caregivers into paying dues with almost no right to opt out. Once signed, the deceptive language on the application prevents caregivers from exercising their Harris rights except during an elusive 15-day window each year.

To date, the 15-day restriction is admittedly the union’s most effective tactic when it comes circumventing the Harris ruling.

But it’s only half the battle. In most cases (except when it’s caught red-handed), SEIU 503 still must convince caregivers to sign up for union membership in the first place before it can begin collecting the near-irrevocable dues payments.

Perhaps that explains why SEIU 503’s caregiver membership dropped to record lows last year. Thanks to the Freedom Foundation’s “Decline to Sign” campaign, more caregivers than ever are learning about SEIU 503’s scheme – and they don’t want to sign their rights away.

But for unions like SEIU, maintaining dues-paying membership is a matter of life and death. Union leaders realize that as long as caregivers don’t exercise their Harris rights to choose for themselves, they can count on a guaranteed source of revenue from which they can continue funding their political agenda.

It’s exactly that skewed priority that has led to numerous reports of union harassment, bullying and fraud in the years since Harris.

In a well-publicized case in Minnesota, for example, an SEIU staffer allegedly forged a caregiver’s signature so the union could start deducting dues from her pay. And in neighboring Washington state, the Freedom Foundation just recently obtained public records showing numerous examples of SEIU attempting to bully and coerce caregivers into paying dues during state-mandated orientation sessions.

Now, a newly introduced bill in the Oregon Legislature could give SEIU 503 more opportunities to do the same.

Senate Bill 1534 would direct the Department of Human Services to establish mandatory training requirements for caregivers. Although new caregiver orientations are already mandatory in Oregon, subsequent training sessions are not.

To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with either mandatory orientations or trainings – at least the portion that is run by the state and focused on caregiver training, skills, payroll procedures, etc. However, such meetings – during which union reps are allowed to give a 15- to 20-minute unopposed pitch for union membership – have proven to be fertile ground for the type of union bullying described above.

And the additional “captive-audience” time would be invaluable to SEIU 503.

If Senate Bill 1534 passes, there’s little doubt the union would be guaranteed a closed-door presentation at every caregiver training. With monopoly access to every caregiver – and with caregiver membership declining – it would be no surprise to see union organizers do whatever it takes to ensure that caregivers sign a union membership application restricting their right to opt out under Harris v. Quinn.

Fortunately for Oregon’s caregivers, the Freedom Foundation will ensure that any union misconduct does not go unchallenged.