Last week, Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-Wash.) announced she would soon introduce federal legislation to put a stop to “dues skimming,” or the state diversion of Medicaid funds to unions, a move the Freedom Foundation began calling for last year.
In some states — including Washington, Oregon and California — labor unions like SEIU and AFSCME have succeeded in changing state law to designate home care aides serving Medicaid-eligible disabled and elderly individuals as public employees for the sole purposes of unionization.
Once unionized, states began withholding union dues from caregivers’ Medicaid payments. Before 2014, most home caregivers in these states were required to pay union dues as a condition of participating in their state’s home care program.
That changed with the U.S. Supreme Court’s Harris v. Quinn decision, which established that “partial-public employees” could not be required to pay union dues against their will.
Desperate to maintain their cashflow, much of which goes to support extremely partisan political activity, unions and their political allies in state governments implemented a series of measures designed to work around Harris and keep caregivers paying dues whether they wanted to or not.
In Washington, for instance, newly hired individual providers (IPs) must sit through two captive-audience meetings with union organizers as part of their initial orientation and training during which they are pressured into signing union membership forms. The fine print on these membership forms makes it very difficult for the signer to ever cancel the dues deductions from their pay.
Even if a caregiver never signs a union membership form, however, the state will still deduct full union dues — 3.2 percent of wages — from the IPs’ pay automatically. Objecting IPs, if they notice the deductions, must demand in writing the deductions be stopped.
McMorris-Rodgers’ legislation is designed to put an end to these coercive practices by taking states out of the business of collecting union dues, reported Inside Sources.
“This is robbing our nation’s vulnerable who need Medicaid the most,” the congresswoman told Fox News last week. “Every dollar that is diverted from a caregiver to a union hurts that family’s ability to care for their loved ones. Paying unions is not what Medicaid was designed for.”
In Washington, the Department of Social and Health Services estimates about 70 percent of IPs are relatives of the person they provide care for.
The announcement from McMorris-Rodgers came as several caregivers and think tank experts from Washington and Minnesota made the rounds on Capitol Hill to educate lawmakers about dues skimming and the need for a federal solution.
Accompanied by Freedom Foundation staff, Washington IP Miranda Thorpe and her daughter Sarena were there to share the story of how SEIU 775 dues were taken out of Miranda’s pay for months without her permission before she discovered the deductions.
Freedom Foundation attorneys previously represented Miranda and several other caregivers who had union dues seized from their pay without authorization in a lawsuit against the state and SEIU 775. Though the Washington Supreme Court ultimately rubber-stamped the union’s exploitive practice, constitutional challenges to the unauthorized deductions are still working their way through federal courts.
Undeterred, Miranda and the Freedom Foundation hope a federal solution will solve the problem once and for all.
“What bothers me the most is, I know a lot of parents, because I’m in this community,” Miranda told Fox News. “And none of them really understand that this is happening to them. They have no idea. I don’t think the state should be a factor that colludes with unions to take out this money without people’s knowledge. If they really wanted people to have a choice, then they should let them know that their options are… I think it’s very unfair, since this is a very vulnerable population.”
According to Freedom Foundation estimates, about $200 million dollars in union dues is siphoned out of caregivers’ Medicaid funds each year in at least nine states.