Rep. Darrell Issa’s House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has held a hearing and released a new report detailing stories of new union whistleblowers forced into becoming dues-paying members.
Sally Coomer, a home health-care worker from Duvall, Washington, owns a home health-care agency and also cares for her disabled 21-year-old daughter Becky. Coomer receives Medicaid funding as Becky’s health-care provider. Due to the lack of union presence in the state prior to 2009, she was able to do so as an employee of a non-union home care agency.
Then, the Service Employees International Union arrived in Washington and lobbied for legislation — since passed — requiring all home health-care workers to join a union.
Prior to 2001, home care workers caring for Medicaid clients did so as either agency workers or independent providers. SEIU arrived in Washington in 2001, however, and immediately advocated for the Long-Term In-Home Care Services Act, by which all “independent providers” would become subject to compelled union membership. Later, in 2009, the state also passed House Bill 2361, stating that a family member caring for an adult disabled child is to be considered an “independent provider.”
As a consequence, Coomer said she was no longer able to simply care for Becky privately as a non-union agency employee, but had to resign her agency position and sign up with the state as an independent provider. In order to receive Medicaid funding, and as a condition of this new employment status, she was forced to join SEIU and to pay dues within 30 days or else to risk termination, as were other parent-providers across the state.
Also, Coomer is now unable — as a unionized independent provider — to pay into Social Security, something she was able to do before the forced unionization.
Further, Coomer says her union dues are going to support political causes with which she does not agree, and she is faced with a constant barrage of what she considers propaganda supporting a slate of candidates she does not support. She also receives notices about increases in dues for the union’s “political accountability fund,” which she likewise does not support but is forced to pay for.
Theresa Riffey provides help around the home for her brother, a quadriplegic, and receives a small stipend from Illinois’s Medicaid program for her efforts, saving the state the cost of providing full-time care. Illinois law requires her to pay a portion of her check every month to an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). The Supreme Court will soon decide whether to hear her case that asks on what basis, besides raw political power, a state may compel independent home-care workers and other similarly situated self-employed persons to support and associate with a labor union against their will. For the sake of workers’ First Amendment rights, it should take the case.
It is unclear at this point if the court will take Riffey’s case, but according to NRO at least one justice, Anthony Kennedy, is less than pleased with the Illinois law:
“First Amendment values are at serious risk,” Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy has written, “if the government can compel a particular citizen, or a discrete group of citizens, to pay special subsidies for speech on the side that it favors.” Only an “overriding” and legitimate purpose, he continued, “allows any compelled subsidy for speech in the first place.” Here, Governor Blagojevich and the Illinois legislature’s sole purpose was the height of illegitimacy: appropriating spoils for their strongest political backers.
According to a Jan. 17, 2012, story at Californiahealthline.org, bill SB 411 — backed heavily by SEIU and sponsored by Rep. Curren Price — will likely come up for a vote and will likely force unionization in California.
According to Jordan Lindsey, director of policy and public affairs for the California Association for Health Services at Home, the bill will be expensive — not just for the state, but for home health-care workers as well:
Last year’s estimate from appropriations was that the program would cost about $1 million to start up, and $8 million every year to run the background checks. But new analysis points to a cost of as much as $25 million a year, Lindsey said.
The bill passes some of the cost of the program on to home health care agencies and individuals in the form of licensing fees. “What it breaks down to is about $4,000 a year in licensing fees,” Lindsey said. “I think most of the agencies can do that. But then for every home health aide, it would be another $165 per aide per year.”
And if that turns out to be the cost, he said, that’s a significant burden to agencies. “Basically you’re paying $20,000 a year just to stay in business,” Lindsey said.
Moreover, the bill would require background checks and care instruction for all home health-care workers. Many home workers are parents who have literally been with the patient for his or her entire life and need no care instruction.
Riffey’s case, if the court takes it and decides in her favor, could be a massive blow to unions across the nation, which currently spend massive amounts of member dues to support political causes, primarily those of Democratic representatives.