Due to the Freedom Foundation’s continuing advocacy for union transparency and reform, forcibly unionized workers across the state are learning how the unions spend their money and how they can exercise their constitutional rights to limit that spending.
Government unions are notoriously liberal and partisan organizations, and much of the money they extract (often illegally) from public employees is spent on political and social causes that the employees find repugnant to their faiths, consciences and fundamental human moral senses.
Enter Andrea Gross-Henry. Andrea is a private employee at a healthcare center in Seattle, but the employees at her workplace are represented by Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 775, a mostly government employee union that represents, among others, more than 30,000 home healthcare providers.
Andrea has worked at her current workplace for nearly two years, but never paid much attention to her union and had never heard of the Freedom Foundation.
That changed several months ago. Andrea’s union steward sent an email to her and her fellow employees echoing the union’s warning about the “union-busting” Freedom Foundation. Naturally, Andrea, curious about the fuss, found the Foundation’s website and began to learn about the union’s spending habits.
Not only do they devote vast sums to politics, but she discovered they regularly funded radical social organizations, like the abortion-on-demand provider Planned Parenthood.
SEIU 775’s unabashed support for Planned Parenthood shocked Andrea’s conscience. As a Christian, Andrea believes life begins at conception and that abortion is morally and religiously wrong.
With the stark knowledge that “her” union supported this despicable organization, she realized she could not simply maintain the status quo. Her faith made her choice clear – either she would have to cease all financial support for the union or quit her job.
At this point, she reached out to Freedom Foundation and learned about her right to become a nonmember of the union by requesting a religious accommodation. Her right to be a “religious objector” is enshrined in the federal Civil Rights Act.
Under existing law, if Andrea notifies her employer and the union of her sincere religious beliefs and requests and accommodation, the union has only two choices – grant or deny her request.
SEIU 775 responded to her heartfelt letter in typical union fashion. With harassment. Though it had no legal right to do so, the union responded with an incredibly invasive questionnaire, demanding that Andrea disclose even more personal and religious convictions — and even provide the contact information for her pastor.
The union said that once Andrea completed the questionnaire, they would consider her request.
At this point, she sought the counsel of Freedom Foundation’s litigation team. Our legal specialists have provided pro bono counseling for many employees who’ve been mistreated by their unions.
The Foundation’s attorneys wrote SEIU 775 directly, warning them that if the union continued to deny Andrea her rights, the Foundation would be forced to bring a lawsuit SEIU would surely lose.
If they chose to deny Andrea’s requested accomodation, our legal team would aggressively defend her civil rights in court.
Little more than a week later, we received the union’s response. It had granted Andrea’s accommodation. Now Andrea is a nonmember of SEIU 775, and not a single dime of her money goes to the union – or, by proxy, abortion providers around the country.
Andrea is proud to have reclaimed her rights of association, speech and conscience.
The Freedom Foundation’s union transparency and reform project empowers workers. By educating them on their unions’ activities, and informing them of their rights, Freedom Foundation is the real advocate for employees’ rights.
Andrea’s story is is just one example among many.