Minnesota home-based personal care providers argue being forced under SEIU union monopoly ‘representation’ violates their freedom to associate
Washington, D.C. (December 13, 2018) – Today, with free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, a group of Minnesota home-based home care providers filed a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review a case challenging a Minnesota state law used to force tens of thousands of home care providers under union monopoly “representation.” The providers, who work at home caring for disabled family members as part of a state-run Medicaid program, oppose union affiliation.
The case’s lead plaintiff, Teri Bierman, filed the suit with seven other home care providers to challenge a 2013 Minnesota state law used by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare Minnesota to force home care providers to associate with it as a condition of providing care under the state Medicaid program.
Teri Bierman and the other home care providers provide critical care to their family members who receive state assistance to help pay for their care. Bierman provides care at home for her daughter, who suffers from cerebral palsy and requires care throughout the day. The other plaintiffs in the case care for children diagnosed with severe autism, epilepsy, Rubenstein-Taybi syndrome, or other significant disabilities. Like the other plaintiffs, Bierman receives aid from a Minnesota program similar to Medicaid, which provides funds to families to care for disabled relatives.
On August 27, 2014, the SEIU “won” a controversial mail-in unionization vote for Minnesota caregivers. Even though only 13 percent of the state’s 27,000 home care providers indicated support for SEIU affiliation, that was enough for the state to impose the union’s monopoly representation onto every provider, because of the small number of ballots returned. Caregivers who didn’t vote or voted against the union were then forced to accept the SEIU’s “representation.”
Bierman v. Dayton asks the Supreme Court to declare unconstitutional under the First Amendment’s free association guarantee the unions’ monopoly bargaining privileges, by which a union forces its representation on individuals receiving state funds who do not consent to the representation.
By asking the Court to declare monopoly bargaining a violation of the First Amendment, Foundation staff attorneys seek to build off two recent Foundation-won Supreme Court decisions. In the 2014 Harris v. Quinn decision, the Court applied exacting First Amendment scrutiny to rule that providers like the Bierman plaintiffs cannot be required to pay union fees.
Next, in the June 2018 Janus v. AFSCME decision, the Court declared that forced union fees for all public sector employees violate the First Amendment and opened the door to further cases seeking to uphold workers’ rights to freedom of speech and freedom of association. In his opinion for the majority, Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the Court that “designating a union as the employees’ exclusive representative substantially restricts the rights of individual employees.”
Both Harris and Janus were argued by National Right to Work Foundation staff attorney William Messenger, who is also the lead attorney in Bierman v. Dayton. Bierman now asks the Supreme Court, for the first time, to apply the same First Amendment standard to forced association as it has already applied to forced subsidies of union speech.
“If the Supreme Court agrees to hear Bierman, these home care providers will be one step closer toward ending an unconstitutional scheme that forces them to associate with a union they oppose as a condition of state assistance in providing care for their sons and daughters,” said Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. “Forcing individuals under union monopoly representation flies in the face of the First Amendment’s protection of freedom of association. This case gives the High Court the opportunity to apply to Big Labor’s coercive exclusive representation powers the legal standards it laid out in Janus and Harris.”
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, assists thousands of employees in more than 250 cases nationwide per year.