Video footage obtained by the Freedom Foundation indicates that SEIU is using state-mandated and taxpayer-funded training sessions for Individual Provider home care aides (IPs) to mislead them into believing that union membership in SEIU 775 is mandatory.
The footage was taken within the last several months at a training session in Aberdeen. It features trainer Steven Williams telling the class that union membership is mandatory and that IPs should want to be part of the SEIU. The following is a transcript of the exchange:
Class member: “Are you required to join the union?”
Williams: “A caregiver? Unless you’re being privately paid, yeah. And you want to be in the union, you really do. ”
Class member: “I didn’t want to be in it, because I just take care of my sister [inaudible].”
Williams: “Yeah, but the union’s what, you know, that’s where you get your raises, that’s where you’ve gotten your insurance and benefits.
Class member: “See, I don’t need none of that. That’s the thing, I don’t need none of that.”
Williams: “Yeah, if you were being privately paid then it wouldn’t matter. Because if you work either directly through the state from DSHS or if you work for an agency, yeah, you’re part of the union. But they do do a lot of good.”
The video and audio footage is available here.
Under the terms of SEIU 775’s collective bargaining agreement with the state, an SEIU 775 representative may present to the class for the first 30 minutes of the mandatory 75-hour training sessions. The state pays also IPs for their time spent at the union presentation.
In this case, the SEIU 775 representative did not show up for his 30-minute presentation. Instead, the pro-union comments came from the instructor. In accordance with I-1163, an SEIU-funded initiative passed by voters in 2011, the state pays the SEIU Healthcare NW Benefits Training Partnership to provide the training.
Other IPs have reported to the Freedom Foundation that SEIU representatives have taken the opportunity afforded by the orientation to deceive providers. A provider who attended a training session in early May, who wishes to remain anonymous, told the Freedom Foundation:
The FIRST thing he (SEIU 775 organizer Jose Manzano) made clear is, “You know that by becoming a care provider you joined a union, right?” He then spent the next half hour extolling the wonders and benefits of unions. He then handed out a legal-sized (membership) form and indicated we all needed to sign it for their records. Some objected to signing it, as they had signed up at intake, but eventually all did I think, except me.
Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Harris v. Quinn last June, “partial public employee” groups in Washington, including state-paid caregivers, have had the right to choose whether to be members of and pay dues to SEIU.
Nevertheless, as the video indicates, significant gaps remain in the application of the Harris decision in Washington. In addition to misinforming providers about their union membership obligations, the state and SEIU are continuing to automatically deduct union dues from all providers, even if the provider has never signed up for union membership.
Since the Harris decision, the Freedom Foundation has been unable to inform IPs of their constitutional right to cease membership in and dues payment to SEIU 775 because of ongoing litigation in which SEIU 775 has sought to prevent the Department of Social and Health Services from releasing the names of state-paid IPs to the Freedom Foundation under the Public Records Act. SEIU 775 is currently appealing the ruling of a Thurston County judge who determined the records to be disclosable.
However, the Freedom Foundation recently obtained a list of IPs through other means and launched an outreach campaign to IPs to educate them about their rights. The first set of communications included a letter and email, with additional communications still to come.
The Freedom Foundation has also developed an informational website, www.seiuoptout.com, for providers seeking to learn more information about leaving SEIU.
In response to the Freedom Foundation’s mailings, SEIU 775 sent a strongly worded email to IPs urging them to refrain from responding to Freedom Foundation communications. The email made several unsubstantiated claims about the Freedom Foundation and referred to the organization as “radical,” “anti-caregiver,” “dangerous” and “devious.”
Many providers have a similar view of SEIU 775. Statements from providers on www.seiuoptout.com describe a union that is “indifferent towards its members” and “all about money and political power.” One provider explained how SEIU 775 “took money from our family every month, without my permission, and used it to promote policies I disagree with.”
According to SEIU 775’s own estimates, 40 percent of its more than $20 million budget is spent on political and other activity unrelated to representing IPs.
SEIU 775 has reason to be worried about losing members. Hundreds of family child care providers have already exercised their right to leave SEIU 925 since the Freedom Foundation began an educational campaign for these approximately 12,000 individuals last fall.