In a case of gross abuse of an in-home caretaker and his wife, the Freedom Foundation successfully helped free an in-home care provider from Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 2015, which had been illegally taking money from In-Home-Supportive Service (IHSS) payments for nearly two decades.
But now the union needs to return the illegally confiscated money.
A federal suit was filed in the Eastern District of California by the Freedom Foundation on behalf of Andrew Stoia, who cares for his disabled wife. In a series of unfortunate events, Mrs. Stoia suffered devastating back and knee injuries forcing her to take medicine to cope with the pain. She had an adverse reaction to the medicine and became legally blind. The Stoias rely entirely on Mr. Stoia’s Medicaid payments paid through the IHSS program.
In 2003, SEIU 2015 directed the Controller to deduct union dues and funds for the union’s political action committee from Andrew Stoia’s Medicaid payments despite having no evidence of consent from Mr. Stoia. He never authorized the union-related deductions by means of signing a membership card.
Harris v. Quinn (2014) prohibits the government and unions from confiscating union dues or fees from homecare providers without clear and compelling evidence the individuals consent to the deductions and agreed to waive their First Amendment right to refrain from subsidizing union speech.
“Not only did Mr. Stoia never consent to join the union, he repeatedly and over the course of 17 years told the union he wanted them to stop taking money from his payments,” concluded Gondeiro. “You could rob a bank and get out of prison in less time than Mr. Stoia was forced to fund SEIU against his will.”
“Sadly, we hear many cases of government unions evading public employees’ requests to leave the union,” continued Gondiero. “But I’ve never seen a case where a union displays such disrespect and indifference to a person’s right to stop funding the union against their will for such a long period of time.”
Between 2003 and 2020, the Stoias frequently called, made in-person visits and delivered notes to IHSS and SEIU, requesting the union stop taking money from Mr. Stoia’s payments. Mrs. Stoia even wrote a handwritten letter to SEIU pleading for the deductions to stop.
“For going on two decades now we have stressed time and again that we do not wish to pay dues to a union which participates in moral and political activities we very much oppose,” explained Andrew Stoia. “It’s been like having signed a blood contract.”
“Over the years it became clear that Alameda County’s refusal to stop taking dues was not the exception; the other two counties we’ve lived in also denied us a choice,” continued Stoia. “This ongoing predicament is effectively driving us out of our home state.”
“It’s unconscionable that union leaders would be so callous about taking money from someone’s Medicaid payments when that money is obviously needed to provide personal care,” concluded Gondeiro.
The complaint seeks a declaratory judgment, damages and injunctive relief for violating Mr. Stoia’s civil rights. The complaint also names State Controller Betty Yee and Attorney General Xavier Becerra as defendants.