By Tom Steward | Watchdog Minnesota Bureau
ST. PAUL, Minn. — A weeks-old Supreme Court decision freeing home-based care providers from paying union fair-share fees could cost two major unions tens of millions of dollars annually.
Notices going out in several affected states paint a grim picture for the coffers of Service Employees International Union and American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
“At the request of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), DHS has ceased collecting agency fees, also known as fair-share payments, from Homecare Workers and Personal Support Workers (“Providers”) who are non-members,” states an online notification from the Oregon Department of Human Services.
The high court ruled that home-based workers who receive indirect subsidies to care for individuals and family members with special needs could no longer be classified as full-time state employees for collective bargaining purposes. Home care aides compelled to pay fair-share fees in Illinois, California, Oregon, Washington, Massachusetts, Missouri, Connecticut, Vermont and Maryland stand to benefit.
“As a nonmember, I request that you immediately notify the State to cease the deduction of union dues or fees equivalent to dues from my provider payments as required by the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Harris v. Quinn,” reads a form letter drafted for workers who opt out in the state of Washington.
Public employee unions from Boston to Minneapolis to Seattle have begun notifying thousands of home care workers and child care providers the fair-share fees assessed to nonmembers will no longer be garnished from their wages.
“In light of uncertainty created by the United State Supreme Court’s June 30, 2014 decision in Harris v. Quinn, the Union has asked the State to cease deduction of your fair-share fees,” writes SEIU Healthcare secretary-treasurer Adam Glickman in a letter to home care workers in Washington.
“No such fees will be deducted from your future paychecks. Please let us know if the State has not honored this request in your next paycheck,” adds Glickman in the notice obtained by the Freedom Foundation. “We also received your request for a refund of fair-share fees previously paid. We are analyzing the potential effect of the Court decision on our local union and have not made any decision about refunds.”
The financial fallout also became apparent in the home state of the personal care aides whose legal challenge went to the Supreme Court and changed everything. In Illinois, personal care assistants will no longer be assessed some $10 million in mandatory fair-share fees, according to the National Right to Work Foundation.
“SEIU bosses across the country are being forced to back down from their forced union dues demands,” said NRWF President Mark Mix in a statement. NRWF represented the Illinois aides and others in similar cases across the country. “SEIU officials are no longer empowered to siphon off money that is designated for low-income and special needs children and adults who receive care at home.”
An Oregon labor publication maintains the new ground rules in effect create a “right-to-work” zone for home care and child care providers. Oregon AFSCME collects $35 per month in fair-share fees from about 350 of 1,400 child care providers, while SEIU Local 503 receives fair-share fees from about 10,600 of 26,000 home care and child care workers, according to a report by the Oregonian.
The issue of fair-share fees also factors into Minnesota’s biggest public sector union election ever, currently underway among 26,000 home-care workers. SEIU acknowledges fair-share fees cannot be assessed if the union wins the mail-ballot election in a July 7 letter to Jim Schowalter, Minnesota Management and Budget commissioner, obtained by Watchdog Minnesota Bureau.
“SEIU Healthcare Minnesota does not intend to require employees who are not members of the exclusive representative to contribute a fair-share fee for services rendered by the exclusive representative,” wrote Jamie Gulley, SEIU Healthcare Minnesota president.
The issue will also play out in a second union drive in the works by AFSCME to organize 12,000 Minnesota child care providers.
“I’m sure the union will use this to create a false sense of security amongst child care providers who are opposed,” said Jennifer Parrish, a Rochester child care provider and union opponent. “So it’s important that we get the word out that, while that is a huge victory for us and really limits their ability to have that steady stream of dues money coming in, it really is a small part of what they could do to harm us.”
When Michigan ended mandatory union representation for home care workers in 2013, SEIU membership plummeted by 80 percent from 55,000 to about 11,000 members. Legal action aimed at recouping some of the fair-share fees remains under state review.