Full 7th Circuit asked to review decision blocking return of $32 million in union fees seized from 80,000 providers in violation of First Amendment
Chicago, IL (December 20, 2018) – National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys have filed a petition asking the full U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit to rehear their case in which Illinois homecare providers seek the return of over $32 million in union fees seized by SEIU officials in a scheme the U.S. Supreme Court declared unconstitutional.
The case, Riffey v. Rauner, is a continuation of the 2014 Foundation-won Supreme Court Harris v. Quinn case. In Harris, the Court ruled that a scheme imposed by the State of Illinois, in which over 80,000 individual homecare providers were forced to pay union fees out of the state funding they receive, violated the providers’ First Amendment rights.
Earlier this year, Foundation staff attorneys successfully petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review and reverse the Appeals Court’s ruling. The High Court did so the day after it issued the landmark Janus v. AFSCME case, ordering the Appeals Court to reconsider the case in light of the Janus ruling, which struck down public sector forced union fees as violating the First Amendment.
In Janus, which was argued by the same National Right to Work Foundation staff attorney who is lead counsel in the Riffey case, the Supreme Court clarified that any union fees taken without an individual’s informed consent violate the First Amendment. That standard supports the Riffey plaintiffs’ claim by that all providers who had money seized without their consent are entitled to refunds.
However, on December 6 a three-judge panel of the Appeals Court affirmed its previous ruling that no class can be certified from the over 80,000 providers whose money was seized in violation of their First Amendment rights. The panel based its decision on the ground that each individual homecare provider would have to prove that he or she objected to the taking of the fees when the seizures occurred.
In 2014, the case was re-designated Riffey v. Rauner and remanded to the District Court to settle remaining issues, including whether or not tens of thousands of providers who had not joined the union would receive refunds of the money taken from them unlawfully by the SEIU.
In June 2016, the District Court denied a motion for class certification. The ruling allowed the SEIU to keep the over $32 million in unconstitutional fees confiscated from union nonmembers who never consented to their money being taken for union fees. Foundation staff attorneys appealed that ruling to the Appeals Court.
Now Foundation staff attorneys have petitioned the Appeals Court to rehear the case en banc. The petition argues that Janus requires that the lower court’s class certification order be reversed. Foundation staff attorneys point out that the Janus precedent does not require a worker to prove his or her subjective opposition to forced union fees. Rather, Janus held that the First Amendment is violated if union dues or fees are seized without the worker’s clear affirmative consent.
The petition argues that the case is of exceptional importance because it concerns the return of more than $32 million seized from some 80,000 homecare providers in violation of their First Amendment rights.
“The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that SEIU had illegally confiscated union dues from thousands of Illinois homecare providers, but the ruling challenged by this petition denies those same caregivers the opportunity to reclaim the money that never should have been taken from them by SEIU in the first place,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “If SEIU’s bosses are not required to return the money they seized in violation of homecare providers’ constitutional rights, it will only encourage similar behavior from union officials eager to trample the First Amendment to enrich themselves with the money intended for the care of individuals who need it.”
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.