More than two years since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Harris v. Quinn that “partial-public employees” cannot be constitutionally required to pay union dues or fees against their will, much work remains to be done in Washington to ensure affected workers are informed of and able to exercise their First Amendment rights.
But state data showing hundreds of such employees dropping their union membership this spring indicate the Freedom Foundation’s efforts are beginning to bear fruit.
The largest group of Harris-affected employees in Washington is the state’s 35,000 individual provider home care aides (IPs), represented by SEIU 775. Following the court’s ruling, the Freedom Foundation requested a list of IPs from the state under the Public Records Act in order to inform them of their ability to choose for themselves whether to pay union dues.
SEIU 775 sued the state and the Freedom Foundation to block the release of the list and the issue has been tied up in court since the fall of 2014. Both the trial court and court of appeals ruled against SEIU 775 and found the list to be disclosable, but the union has appealed to the State Supreme Court and continued to try and delay the release of the list for as long as possible.
In the meantime, the Freedom Foundation has had to employ other tactics, from the conventional to the creative, to reach out to IPs. The Freedom Foundation has so far aired eight TV spots featuring actual IPs, as well as multiple radio ads. When the state switched to a new payment system for IPs and held a series of training sessions around the state to instruct IPs in its use, the Freedom Foundation sent representatives to the meetings to pass out informational flyers and speak with IPs face-to-face.
Payroll data provided by the state indicate that, each month since Harris, the number of IPs no longer paying dues to SEIU 775 has gradually increased as more IPs learn of their rights and options.
Earlier this year, the Freedom Foundation for the first time was able to start a direct outreach effort to several thousand IPs.
The most recent state data available show the outreach is beginning to take effect. In April alone, nearly 600 IPs successfully left SEIU 775 and had their dues deductions stopped, likely the largest membership decline in SEIU 775’s history.
As of April, 5.8 percent of IPs—nearly 2,000 people—were no longer paying dues to SEIU 775 and, as we’ve explained before, getting out of SEIU 775 is no small feat.
The Freedom Foundation’s outreach efforts have continued to accelerate since April, meaning that additional decreases in SEIU 775’s membership have likely already occurred. As the Freedom Foundation expanded its efforts, however, the union began enforcing new restrictions on IPs’ ability to resign.
Under the union’s new policy, IPs can only stop paying dues during the 15-day period between 45 and 30 days prior to the annual anniversary of the day they signed a membership card. IPs’ who try to resign from the union before their next window period are being told the union will continue withholding dues until their next window period arrives.
Nevertheless, as more IPs learn of their rights from the Freedom Foundation and grow tired of the union’s strong-arm tactics, more will choose to leave. And as more IPs challenge the union’s illegal schemes, with Freedom Foundation legal assistance, the union’s ability to coerce IPs into paying up will diminish.
SEIU 775 can only forestall the inevitable for so long.