Lawsuit Alleges SEIU 503 Isn’t Complying With Supreme Court Ruling

SALEM, Ore. – Service Employees International (SEIU) 503 is the subject of a new lawsuit whose aim is to force the union and the Oregon Department of Human Services to comply with a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing Medicaid-compensated home healthcare providers to decide for themselves whether to pay dues and fees to the union.

The suit, filed in federal court on Thursday by attorneys supported by the Freedom Foundation and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation on behalf of an Oregon home healthcare provider, challenges whether the union can treat workers who didn’t know they had a right as having waived that right.

The union argues that care providers waived their right to stop dues deductions when they signed membership agreements before Harris v. Quinn gave them the constitutional right not to pay any dues or fees to a union. The Freedom Foundation counters that a care provider cannot waive the right granted by Harris before she knew she had that right.

The court ruled in Harris v. Quinn two years ago that home care providers were not full-fledged state employees and could no longer be forced to pay dues or fees to SEIU 503. The union, however, took the position that, while it couldn’t force workers to join up, it didn’t have to make the opting out process easy or immediate, either.

One way to make things more difficult was to only allow workers to leave the union and stop paying dues during a 15-day window period every year.

However, workers who signed membership cards prior to Harris can’t be penalized after Harris. The law puts a high value on First Amendment rights and sets a high standard for any action that purports to waive these rights.

With respect to Oregon home care providers, it’s nearly impossible to imagine how one could waive Harris rights before Harris rights existed.

Freedom Foundation General Counsel James Abernathy explained, “A person cannot be declared to have waived a First Amendment right that is not clearly articulated in the waiver, didn’t exist at the time she signed her membership card, and was not recognized by federal or Oregon courts at the time.

“We expect this kind of bad behavior from unions,” he said, “but it’s a shame that litigation is necessary to get the state of Oregon to honor the constitutional rights of workers.

“Gov. (Kate) Brown and the state of Oregon have made their choice,” Abernathy said. “They have prioritized SEIU 503’s annual $30 million cash windfall over Oregon citizens’ First Amendment rights.”


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