On Thursday, the Freedom Foundation filed a lawsuit on behalf of a Washington individual provider against the Department of Social and Health Services and Service Employees International Union 775 for violating providers’ First Amendment rights.
Individual providers receive Medicaid funding to provide care for individuals receiving Medicaid services. The State requires that these providers undergo basic training and ongoing continuing education classes as a condition of receiving Medicaid payments.
The collective bargaining agreement between the State and SEIU mandate that representatives from SEIU have sole and exclusive access to providers who undergo required contracting appointments, basic training, and continuing education classes. SEIU receives the first 15 minutes and 30 minutes of contracting appointments and basic training, respectively, where SEIU extols its views on matters of public concern, solicits membership, and requests donations to political committees. Providers must sit through the presentations as a condition of employment, and thus are compelled by the State to listen to SEIU’s propaganda sessions.
The plaintiff in the case, Ken Alvarez, is an individual provider who provides care to his disabled fiancé and was forced to attend and sit through such a mandated meeting with SEIU. Union representatives meet with individual providers multiple times a year, where thousands of providers are forced to meet with SEIU and listen to its heavily laden pro-union presentations.
However, the First Amendment protects the freedom of speech. As part of the freedom of speech, courts have held that the First Amendment prohibits compelled speech.
The State and SEIU violate individual providers’ First Amendment rights by forcing IPs to be inundated with union propaganda during mandatory training sessions and continuing education classes. Providers should not be subjected to this kind of union harassment in order to receive funding to care for the elderly or disabled.
What makes it even more egregious is the fact that the State is using taxpayer money and property to fund these SEIU meetings. This constitutes a violation of the Washington Constitution, as well as Washington’s ethics laws.
The Freedom Foundation seeks to stop such mandated meetings and secure individual providers’ freedom against compelled listening.