Providers denied refunds of $32 million in union fees which the High Court ruled in Harris v. Quinn were seized in an unconstitutional scheme
Washington, DC (January 9, 2018) – National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys filed a petition for certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court asking the court to hear a case that could determine whether individuals’ First Amendment rights can be limited by union opt-out procedures. In the case, thousands of homecare providers are being denied refunds of over $30 million seized by union officials without their consent.
The case stems from an executive order issued by former Governor Rod Blagojevich that classified more than 80,000 individuals who receive state subsidies to provide in-home care to disabled persons as “public employees” solely for the purpose of the providers being unionized and required to pay union fees. As a result, these in-home care givers, many of them parents caring for their own children, were unionized through an SEIU “card-check” union organizing drive.
Staff attorneys with the National Right to Work Foundation assisted eight of these providers in filing a federal class-action lawsuit challenging the forced dues seizures. The High Court took the case and, on June 30, 2014, it ruled that SEIU’s forced dues scheme imposed by Governor Blagojevich is unconstitutional because it violates the First Amendment rights of the in-home care providers.
After the Supreme Court’s June 2014 ruling in Harris v. Quinn – now designated Riffey v. Rauner – the case was remanded to the District Court to settle the remaining issues, including whether SEIU would be required to return more than $32 million in dues confiscated from nonmembers through its unconstitutional scheme.
In June 2016, the District Court ruled that, despite the Supreme Court ruling in Harris, the SEIU did not have to repay these funds on a class-wide basis. That decision was appealed to the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals where Foundation staff attorneys argued the case in May 2017. The Appeals Court ruled that even though these workers never consented to their money being taken for forced dues, their First Amendment Rights were not violated. Foundation staff attorneys now ask the Court to determine whether the “government inflicts a First Amendment injury when it compels individuals to subsidize speech without their prior consent.”
The petition can be found here.
“The Supreme Court’s Harris decision ruled that forcing homecare providers to subsidize union speech violates their First Amendment rights,” stated NRTW President Mark Mix. “This petition asks the High Court to further clarify its Harris ruling, by making it clear that individuals who have never joined a union cannot be required to take affirmative steps just to protect those Constitutional rights.”
“An individual’s First Amendment rights should never be limited by bureaucratic opt-out procedures,” continued Mix. “With the Supreme Court considering the Constitutionality of mandatory union fees for all public employees next month in the Foundation’s Janus case, this issue could be critical in protecting the freedom of speech of millions of Americans.”
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.