Washington Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) records obtained by the Freedom Foundation under the Public Records Act (PRA) document how SEIU 775 organizers harass new home caregivers for Medicaid recipients into signing up for union membership at caregivers’ mandatory contracting appointments at state offices.
After the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2014 in Harris v. Quinn that “partial-public employees” like Washington’s individual providers (IPs) serving Medicaid clients could not be forced to financially support a union, SEIU 775 and Gov. Jay Inslee’s administration have worked together to keep IPs paying union dues.
For instance, Article 2.3(B) of the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) between SEIU 775 and the state grants union organizers 15 minutes with new IPs at their mandatory contracting appointments.
The Freedom Foundation has previously documented how such captive-audience opportunities are used by union reps to coerce and deceive IPs into signing nearly irrevocable union membership forms authorizing the state to withhold 3.2 percent of their wages for SEIU 775 dues.
Additional records obtained from DSHS under the PRA provide further confirmation of SEIU 775’s coercive practices.
In a May 1, 2017, email to a colleague/supervisor, a DSHS employee explained how an IP had called to explain,
“…how she was poorly treated by the Union. I told her that I was not allowed to speak about the union and that I only had the union’s phone number to reference back to her; to call and complain about her ‘bullied’ experience as she describes it. Which is the 866-371-3200 number. I told her that I wouldn’t know who else to refer her too.
Now, I’d heard horror stories from (redacted) at ODA about her IP’s running out of the room when the Union reps were trying to ‘force them to sign up to have extra money taken out of their checks and or donate’. But now, I am starting to have some people complaining, hence the letter you took from one of my IP’s and now this IP.
Furthermore, I was hoping that you could generate some info to us so that we can redirect appropriately. If we offer to give them the SEIU union phone number and they are already saying they want nothing to do with them. What else can we do?” (Errors in original)
Later that day, the supervisor emailed back, directing the employee to “give them (the IP) the enrollment form that is in the IP packet so they can fill out the part where they do not want to be represented.”
Except, as the employee pointed out in an email back to the supervisor, “no where on the Enrollment form, does it say you can ‘opt out’. Or ‘not be apart’.” (Errors in original)
The supervisor admitted in his response: “…(Y)ou are right there does not appear to be a place for an IP to disenroll.”
After the employee asked whether they should be more intentional about helping IPs understand their options, the supervisor responded, “No we cannot do that… We need to be neutral.”
A separate email thread from June 2017 between DSHS employees sheds additional light on the relationship between caregivers, the state and SEIU 775.
Article 2.3(F) of the CBA requires the state to provide SEIU 775 with a weekly list of IPs that were contracted outside the usual appointment schedule for some reason. Accordingly, a DSHS staffer sent SEIU 775 a list of such IPs on June 23, 2017. The union responded, “We are no longer requiring offices to send information of IP’s contacted outside the regular schedule to protect the privacy of our membership.”
When the DSHS staffer reached out to colleagues to see if they had received similar directions about the change in procedure, one emailed back:
“No, I didn’t receive this. But I am sooooo glad. I thought that is wasn’t a good idea anyway. They asked for a lot of info on these IPs. I just didn’t feel good about that. And every 1 out of 10 IP’s I contract say they are ‘anti-Union’ (when I just mention that they have a union book in their training folder).
So, I felt bad to have to send their profile information anyway even though they expressed how much they hate Unions. I am so glad that I don’t have to do this anymore.” (Errors in original)
As relieved as the employee may have been at the prospect of not having to send IPs’ personal info to SEIU 775, the practice has not changed. Article 5 of the CBA requires the state to daily provide a list of all IPs’ detailed personal information, including Social Security numbers, to the union.
Lastly, additional records suggest DSHS is actively involved in distributing inaccurate information to IPs about their rights regarding union membership.
“As an Individual Provider, you are part of the union, SEIU 775 NW. All IPs are required to pay union membership dues or nonmember fair share fees. These dues are deducted from your paycheck. For specific questions about union dues, contact the SEIU Healthcare 775 NW Member Resource Center, at 1-866-371-3200.”
This is flatly incorrect. Since Harris was decided — nearly three years before the email was sent — it has been unconstitutional to require IPs to pay any union dues or fees against their will. Though Gov. Inslee’s administration and SEIU 775 have worked tirelessly to keep IPs’ paying dues, caregivers have had the constitutional right to make their own choices about membership in and dues payment to SEIU 775 for four years. Thousands have successfully resigned from the union with Freedom Foundation assistance.
Whether the product of ignorance or an intentional desire to mislead caregivers, the misinformation is deeply concerning.
Overall, these records confirm the state’s compliance with Harris v. Quinn remains woefully inadequate and suggest vindicating the rights of all public employees to make their own decisions about joining and financially supporting a government union, as recognized recently by the Supreme Court in Janus v. AFSCME, will likely take years of hard work.