An Oregon union continued to pocket dues from many home health aides caring for family members years after the Supreme Court declared a similar system in Illinois unconstitutional, according to a new suit.
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is challenging labor giant Service Employee International Union Local 503 for receiving dues payments from the Medicaid and disability checks received by home healthcare workers caring for the disabled. The suit, filed on behalf of aide Maryann Rose, alleges that the union acknowledged an aide’s withdrawal from the union, but continued to collect dues and fees from her paycheck.
"SEIU 503 sent Plaintiff Rose a letter informing her that she was no longer a member of the union and that she was no longer eligible for any benefits of union membership, but that it was going to continue having dues deducted from her wages unless and until she submitted a demand for dues deduction to cease in a manner satisfactory to SEIU 503," the suit says.
Local 503 did not return request for comment.
The case comes in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Harris v. Quinn decision in 2014. The justices ruled in a 5-4 decision that Illinois violated the U.S. Constitution when it automatically deducted dues payments from the Medicaid payments made to home healthcare workers.
Associate Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the majority, said that the state was wrong to classify those workers as state employees because their paychecks were not subject to collective bargaining and they did not enjoy the benefits of other state workers.
"PAs are much different from public employees," the decision said. "Unlike full-fledged public employees, PAs are almost entirely answerable to the customers and not to the State, do not enjoy most of the rights and benefits that inure to state employees, and are not indemnified by the State for claims against them arising from actions taken during the course of their employment."
The ruling only applied to the state of Illinois, but it led many of the dozen remaining states to abandon the forced dues practices for home healthcare workers. Washington and Massachusetts, for example, halted automatic union registration for home healthcare workers within weeks of the decision. Local 503 continued the to work around the court by refusing to process multiple requests to stop deductions, according to the suit.
"Defendants’ conduct has caused union dues and/or fees to be illegally deducted from Plaintiff’s wages, infringing her First Amendment rights and has caused her emotional distress," the complaint says. "In failing to process Plaintiff’s deduction cessation requests, Defendants acted with malice and showed a reckless and outrageous indifference to a highly unreasonable risk of harm and has acted with a conscious indifference to the health, safety, and welfare of others."
National Right to Work Committee president Mark Mix called the arrangement "outrageous" and said that the union should have followed the example of other states, rather than extending the practice.
"Despite a Supreme Court ruling that explicitly outlaws this sort of forced-dues scheme, union bosses continue to seize money from mothers and fathers who are simply taking care of their own children," Mix said in a release. "It is outrageous that the state of Oregon continues to permit SEIU bosses to siphon off funding intended for the care of children."