Union officials had required home healthcare providers to submit photo identification to exercise constitutional right to stop union dues deductions
Chicago, IL (September 11, 2020) – With free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, an Illinois home healthcare provider has just won a settlement against SEIU Healthcare Illinois and Indiana (SEIU-HCII) union bosses. Her class-action case challenged SEIU-HCII officials’ enforcement of an arbitrary restriction on providers’ First Amendment right not to subsidize union activities, as recognized by the Supreme Court in the Foundation-won Harris v. Quinn and Janus v. AFSCME decisions.
In Harris, won by Foundation staff attorneys in 2014, the High Court recognized that the First Amendment is violated by schemes to forcibly extract dues from home healthcare providers who assist individuals whose care is subsidized by the government. In the 2018 Janus decision, the Supreme Court struck down mandatory union fees for public sector workers as an infringement of their First Amendment rights, and ruled that the government can only deduct union dues or fees with an individual’s affirmative and knowing consent.
Plaintiff Hydie Nance provides home-based healthcare under the auspices of Illinois’ Home Services Plan. This program provides Medicaid funds to people with disabilities so they can hire and pay “personal assistants” to help them with their day-to-day activities. In her class-action lawsuit, Nance asserted that the Illinois Department of Human Services deducted union dues from the subsidies of home healthcare providers without informing them that “that they have a First Amendment right not to financially support SEIU-HCII.”
Nance tried to exercise her right to stop these illegal dues deductions in both November 2019 and later in March 2020. Full dues continued to be deducted out of her subsidies after both requests, with SEIU-HCII agents claiming after her second request that they could not process her request “without [her] valid photo id.” Nance’s lawsuit also alleged that union and state officials did not notify home healthcare providers about the photo ID “requirement” until after a request to cut off dues had already been submitted.
Nance argued in her suit that the dues scheme imposed by SEIU-HCII union bosses “impedes and burdens personal assistants’ First Amendment right to stop subsidizing SEIU-HCII and its speech” and additionally “impinges on personal assistants’ right to privacy and exposes them to the threat of identity theft.” She sought a ruling from the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois declaring illegal the deductions the union made after she exercised her rights, forbidding further enforcement of the unconstitutional restriction, and ordering refunds for all home healthcare providers from whom the union had seized money illegally under the policy.
SEIU-HCII bosses have now backed down from further litigation and settled the case. The settlement requires that union officials “not reject or refuse” a request to end dues deductions because an individual does not provide a photo ID and also orders a refund to Nance of all dues seized under the scheme in violation of her First Amendment rights. Under the settlement, union brass must also “identify from its records [home healthcare] providers whose requests to resign their union membership” were rebuffed because they did not provide photo ID and process those requests. The union also must stop rejecting or ignoring requests by providers to stop dues deductions made using forms provided by organizations which inform workers of their rights, something union officials were regularly doing.
“This scheme imposed by SEIU-HCII union officials forced Illinois home healthcare providers to produce photo IDs just to stop the flow of their own money that was going to fill union coffers in violation of the First Amendment,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Though this settlement puts an end to this blatantly unconstitutional arrangement, it is outrageous that over two years after Janus was decided and over eight years after Harris was decided, union bosses still refuse to respect, and devise ways to circumvent, the constitutional rights of those they claim to represent.
“We urge any Illinois home healthcare provider who had a request to cut off dues rejected by SEIU-HCII to contact the Foundation so their rights can be vindicated,” Mix added.
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 around 250 cases nationwide per year.