(OLYMPIA, Wash.) — In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court recognized the First Amendment right of publicly compensated homecare and daycare providers to decline union membership, dues and/or fees and still keep their job. But instead of simply complying with the ruling, unions responded by instituting a policy of challenging each and every request in hopes of making the opt-out process so difficult no one would undertake it.
A lawsuit recently filed by the Freedom Foundation on behalf of two Washington homecare providers demonstrates just how petty and vindictive the enterprise has become.
Kytoyna Rogers and Cindy Dickinson — residents of Lacey and Yacolt, respectively — are considered public employees because they are compensated by Medicaid for home-based care they provide to one or more clients or family members.
In Washington, that means they are represented by Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 775.
Rogers has been a caregiver since 2018 and Dickinson since 2020, and neither remembers ever signing a union membership card or authorizing that dues be deducted from their paycheck. And yet the money has been confiscated since they started working under the Medicaid program.
Rogers contacted SEIU in late 2020 requesting her release from the union and that no more dues be taken from her wages. She also demanded a copy of any dues authorization she might have signed.
The union at first refused to acknowledge Rogers’ request, and the dues continued to be deducted until February 2021. She still has not seen a copy of her dues authorization.
Likewise, Dickinson contacted the union in April 2021 asking that her union and membership dues deductions be terminated. She, too, asked for a copy of any membership agreement she might have signed.
As of filing, her paychecks continued to be garnished and she has seen nothing to indicate she authorized SEIU to do so — or the state of Washington to do so on its behalf. Since filing the suit SEIU 775 has had the State stop deducting dues from her wages.
To make matters worse, SEIU officials have led Dickinson down a convoluted path that has brought her no closer to resolution but has significantly increased her levels of stress and frustration.
“The way SEIU officials have treated our clients is abusive in every sense of the word,” said Sydney Phillips, an attorney with the Freedom Foundation. “When they call the union, they’re told they need to send an email. When they email, they get a form letter response with no follow up information. When they call again, they’re told they need to mail a hard copy letter. The union is purposefully doing everything it can to frustrate our clients in the hopes they’ll give up and let the union continue to take their money.”
The two filed suit on Sept. 22 in Thurston County Superior Court citing SEIU 775; its president, Sterling Harders; Washington Gov. Jay Inslee; and, acting DSHS Secretary Don Clintsman as defendants.
“The money we’re talking about is insignificant from the union’s perspective,” continued Phillips. “But for the plaintiffs, it can mean the difference in their monthly budget between being able to buy something they need or having to do without.”
To the union, she said, it isn’t about individuals. It’s about establishing a precedent.
“SEIU can withstand the loss of two people’s dues,” Phillips said. “What it can’t withstand is thousands of people walking out.”