This is Act Two of a 2014 Supreme Court case which ended at least one unconstitutional practice by the SEIU and other labor unions. In the landmark case of Harris v. Quinn, the court ruled that unions couldn’t force home caregivers who were not union members to have payments (which were essentially dues) subtracted from the Medicare reimbursement they received for providing in-home care to patients, many of whom were relatives. That was good news for the nursing aides, but it failed to address the issue what to do about all of the workers who had already been ripped off by the union, in some cases for many years.
Now the court is being asked to address the question of a class action suit brought on behalf of those home health workers. They want the SEIU to reimburse all the people across multiple states in that category for all the money which was taken from them. The total is in the tens of millions. Lower courts have ruled against the class action suit, but the Supreme Court now has the chance to set matters to rights. (Free Beacon)
The plaintiffs argue the court should fully mend the injury caused by the forced dues system by allowing them to recover the back pay. If successful, the suit would establish that fee or dues payments must be made on a voluntary basis, rather than an opt-out system in which the burden of withdrawing support falls on individual workers.
“The unauthorized fee seizure itself would inflict a First Amendment injury. So called ‘opt-out’ requirements would be unconstitutional, as only an ‘opt-in’ requirement—i.e., that the individual consent to the deduction of union fees—would not inflict a First Amendment injury,” the petition says.
SEIU did not respond to request for comment.
At issue here is the constitutionality of the idea that anyone not wishing to pay dues to the union needs to proactively “object” to the withholding, with a failure to do so constituting some sort of implied consent to having their money taken. Some workers failed to do so because the objection, particularly while the case was still bouncing around the courts, could have caused a disruption in the Medicare payments they were receiving for their services. Others may not have been aware that they had a choice or couldn’t manage the legal fees to bring up a challenge on their own.
This boils down to a case of “opting in” or “opting out.” The unions would obviously prefer a system where the default is to take the workers’ money, with the robbery only ending when they file an objection. The basis for this suit is that the deductions shouldn’t have been made in the first place unless the worker decided to opt in and contribute to the union, thereby supporting its political activity.
Further, the union’s base claim in all of these dues extraction schemes is that the workers are benefitting from the union’s work in bargaining for the best payments and benefits. But in these cases, the reimbursement schedule was set up by Medicare, not negotiated by the unions. Anyone engaged in such a contract, regardless of union status, was going to be getting the same payment rate. The SEIU really was stealing money from the healthcare workers while having done absolutely nothing for them in return.
The lower courts sided with the unions in the original Quinn case but were later rebuffed by SCOTUS. Let’s hope that the same situation holds true here and the court takes up the question promptly.