SEIU union bosses seized dues from providers without their consent, then forbade them from stopping deductions outside of short “escape period”
San Francisco, CA (October 23, 2020) – Seven California home healthcare providers are appealing their class-action lawsuit against the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 2015 to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. The appeal in Polk v. Yee was filed with free legal assistance from staff attorneys with the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and West Coast-based Freedom Foundation who jointly represent the seven plaintiffs.
The home healthcare providers’ lawsuit states that union officials skimmed dues money from their and other providers’ Medicaid payments in violation of their First Amendment rights and federal law regarding Medicaid payments. State of California controller Betty Yee is also named as a defendant in the suit for the state’s role in abetting the illegal deductions.
The providers maintain that the union and state are infringing on their rights recognized by the Supreme Court in Right to Work Foundation-won cases Harris v. Quinn (2014), and Janus v. AFSCME (2018). In Harris, the Court ruled that unions contravene the First Amendment when they force home healthcare providers who receive some subsidies from the state to pay union dues. Similarly, in Janus v. AFSCME, the High Court held that no public sector employee could be forced to subsidize union activities as a condition of employment, and that government agencies can only deduct union payments from a public worker’s wages with an affirmative waiver of his or her First Amendment right not to pay.
The plaintiffs, Delores Polk, Heather Herrick, Lien Loi, Peter Loi, Susan McKay, Jolene Montoya, and Scott Ungar all participate in the In-Home Support Services (IHSS) program, which allots Medicaid funds to those who provide home-based aid to people with disabilities. Their lawsuit explains that “even though they are not public employees,” the State of California considers home healthcare providers as such for unionization purposes and takes union dues from them at the behest of SEIU officials.
Polk and the other plaintiffs recount in the lawsuit that SEIU union bosses began taking cuts of their Medicaid subsidies after confusing phone calls or mandatory orientation sessions, in each case never explaining that the providers have a First Amendment right under both Harris and Janus to reject union membership and dues payments.
On top of that, after each of the plaintiffs contacted the SEIU attempting to exercise their right to stop the flow of dues, SEIU operatives informed them that they could only opt out of union dues during short union-created “escape periods” of 10-30 days once per year. The lawsuit also argues that federal law governing IHSS forbids diverting any part of Medicaid payments to “any other party” besides the providers.
The lawsuit seeks a ruling that both the taking of union dues without knowing consent and the policy restricting the providers from ending the dues deductions are unconstitutional. The providers also seek refunds of all money that they and any other IHSS program participants had taken from their payments through the illegal scheme.
“It is unconscionable that SEIU union bosses are siphoning money out of these providers’ pockets merely because those they aid inside their own homes happen to receive state subsidies for their care,” observed National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “This dues skim scam is a blatant violation of federal law and the Supreme Court’s rulings in Harris and Janus. It must be stopped immediately.”
“Unfortunately, the hard-working caregivers in this case are not the only ones being victimized by unions like SEIU,” said Eric Stahlfeld, the Freedom Foundation’s chief litigation counsel. “Our research shows that states like California illegally divert $150 million each year to unions from 350,000 caregivers’ Medicaid payments. While Freedom Foundation and National Right to Work Foundation advocacy has prompted the Department of Health and Human Services to formally oppose the exploitative practice, it’s up to federal courts to end it.”
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.