Freedom Foundation Urges Lawmakers: Oppose HB 4129

Freedom Foundation Urges Lawmakers: Oppose HB 4129
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Freedom Foundation Urges Lawmakers: Oppose HB 4129

Oregon House Bill 4129 received its first public hearing on Monday, highlighting the bill’s many problems for Oregonians and undeserved rewards for the state’s largest government union.

The bill would create a new “agency with choice” option for the state’s Medicaid-funded home care system, whereby the state would be directed to contract with private agencies to take over certain administrative aspects of Oregon’s in-home care program and become the recognized employer of caregivers under the new model.

In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Harris v. Quinn that Medicaid-paid caregivers could no longer be forced to pay union dues or fees against their will. Since then, according to the most recent data obtained from the state, between 30-40 percent of Oregon’s home care workers choose not to pay dues to SEIU 503.

Should HB 4129 become law, any caregiver brought into or hired under this new model would be shuffled outside the protections of the Harris decision and once again be forced to pay dues or fees to SEIU.

“The idea that the state would work hand in glove with the union to deceive these people back into union membership is as dishonest as it is disgusting” said Jason Dudash, Northwest Director of the Freedom Foundation. 

Far from a theoretical concern, a similar SEIU bill was passed in Washington state in 2018 with these exact effects.

Washington newspapers decried the union’s backhanded policymaking at the time, and the red-handed parallels only added to Monday’s fireworks as the committee’s vice-chair, Rep. Anna Scharf, called out HB 4129 for what it really is.

“[T]he actuality of House Bill 4129 is that it will create a legal workaround for one of the state’s largest unions—the SEIU—and can once again force home healthcare workers to join unions and pay dues,” testified Scharf, who also pointed to a letter received by her office from Washington Senate Minority Leader John Braun offering a perspective on Washington state’s legislation and subsequent effects.

While regressive labor policy is bad enough, the hearing also brought to light the obvious fact that SEIU’s bad-faith legislation will come at a significant cost to taxpayers.

HB 4129 does not yet have a published fiscal impact statement, but the previous year’s version, Senate Bill 570 from the 2023 regular session, had a projected fiscal impact of an astonishing $344 million for the 2025-27 biennium. When questioned, proponents of the bill acknowledged that, despite its stated legislative intent, HB 4129 “is not seen as a cost saving model.”

Along with testimony and written comments by family caregivers opposed to the bill, Freedom Foundation staff also provided testimony pointing out the deceptive nature of HB 4129 and offering an amendment that would protect caregivers’ Harris rights under the new model—a fact that was not lost on SEIU leadership.

Speaking to the committee before any opposition to the bill was heard, SEIU 503 executive director Melissa Unger dedicated a portion of her time to recognizing Freedom Foundation’s attendance and preemptively encouraging lawmakers not to listen. Unger concluded her opening comments saying, “I also just want to recognize that I know that the Freedom Foundation is here testifying against this bill and has some amendments. If you go to the Freedom Foundation’s website, you will see they have one goal, and that is to oppose unions…”

Interestingly, Unger did not offer any rebuttal to Freedom Foundation’s substantive claims about the bill’s effects—nor did committee members question them.

Regarding Unger’s comments, Dudash concluded, “I appreciate Ms. Unger generously taking time out of her testimony to direct people to our website, where thousands of her dissatisfied members have already gone to opt out of her union.”

HB 4129 is set for a committee vote this Wednesday.