One of Washington state’s largest unions lost thousands of dues paying members in the wake of a Supreme Court decision barring automatic enrollment of home healthcare workers in the union, according to a new report.
The Freedom Foundation, a think tank in Washington, found that thousands of the workers, many of whom were caring for family members, dropped out of the union after the state ended forced unionism last year. Federal labor filings from Service Employees International Union Local 925 revealed that more than 3,000 of the 7,000 home healthcare workers previously in the union cut ties with the local in 2015.
"Nearly half of Washington's approximately 7,000 family child care providers have exercised their newly acknowledged rights and left SEIU 925 since the Harris decision. The percentage of providers paying dues to the union fell from 100 percent in July 2014 to 53.2 percent (3,738) in May 2015," the report said.
SEIU Local 925 represents mostly public sector workers. Prior to the Quinn v. Harris ruling, the union was able to corral home healthcare workers who received tax breaks and Medicaid dollars from the state. The high court declared a similar arrangement in Illinois unconstitutional, leading Washington to end the practice.
"Pas [Personal Aides] are much different from public employees," Justice Samuel Alito ruled in the 5-4 decision. "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."
Local 925 charges members nearly 2 percent of their salaries for dues with a cap of $90 per month, according to federal labor filings released in March. The union collected more than $8 million and spent more than $1.2 million on political activities and lobbying in 2014. Local 925 actually saw its ranks swell overall in 2014 despite the loss of home healthcare workers, growing from 13, 835 members to 14,405 in 2014.
The union did not respond to request for comment.
Freedom Foundation labor policy expert Maxford Nelsen said that the massive withdrawals followed an education and outreach effort by the group.
"Neither SEIU 925 nor the state took action to inform family child care providers of their constitutional right to resign from the union. The Freedom Foundation obtained providers' contact information from the state in October 2014 and, after defeating a subsequent legal challenge from SEIU 925 in court, began a wide-ranging educational campaign to inform providers of their ability to opt-out of the union," Nelson wrote on the foundation’s website. "To date, the effort has included direct mail, email, phone calls, cable TV advertising and door-to-door canvassing."