A Michigan court ruled that the state branch of the powerful Service Employees International Union does not have to pay back tens of millions of dollars in dues taken from home health care workers who were forced into unionization.
The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled last week that the SEIU Healthcare Michigan does not have to pay back more than $34 million in dues collected from over 40,000 home health care workers. Many were forced into the union under state requirements that they join because they were taking care of sick family members at home.
The SEIU successfully lobbied for the plan in multiple states that classified unpaid family members as “home health care workers.” Dues were then automatically collected from the care recipients’ Medicare or Medicaid checks.
The Court of Appeals ruling was in favor of SEIU Healthcare Michigan’s motion to have the case dismissed because the union had paid back dues to Patricia Haynes and Steven Glossop, who had filed suit demanding dues they were forced to pay be returned. The court noted that Haynes and Glossop were paid back more than they requested in their lawsuit.
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Just over a month after a landmark Supreme Court ruling, the Service Employees International Union is starting to drop its efforts to force home healthcare workers to pay dues.
SEIU local officials in Illinois, Minnesota, and Massachusetts notified home-based childcare and healthcare providers that they will not collect union fees. The news follows the June 30 ruling against forcing their collection by the Supreme Court in Harris v. Quinn, a class action lawsuit filed by staff attorneys for the National Right to Work Foundation representing eight health workers in the Prairie State.
“We’re just starting to see the full implication of the Foundation’s win in the Harris case,” Patrick Semmens, vice president of the National Right to Work Foundation, told FoxNews.com. “In recent years, Big Labor has increasingly turned to friendly governors whose campaigns they funded to unionize people who aren’t truly government employees so they can skim forced dues from government subsidies. Enforcement of the Harris precedent nationwide will end that.”
The high court held in its June 30 ruling that the Service Employees International Union cannot force people who care for loved ones to be union members and deduct dues from the government checks of those they care for. The practice has gone on for several years in a handful of states, creating a lucrative stream of cash for the powerful labor organization, which represents more than two million workers and takes in about $300 million per year.
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One of the nation’s most powerful labor unions could face a costly onslaught of lawsuits seeking tens of millions of dollars in dues, after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the money was collected improperly, legal experts said.
In a ruling Monday, the high court held that Service Employees International Union cannot force people who care for loved ones to be union members and deduct dues from the government checks of those they care for. The practice has gone on for several years in a handful of states, creating a lucrative stream of cash for the powerful labor organization, which represents more than 2 million workers and takes in about $300 million per year.
“The whole point of the decision was that the folks milked by the SEIU weren’t really public employees and should not be forced to pay union dues at all,” said Hans Bader, senior attorney for the Competitive Enterprise Institute. “So they should be able to sue for refund of their compelled union dues back as far as the statute of limitations will allow.
The National Right to Work Foundation, which also represented plaintiff Pamela Harris in Harris v. Quinn, plans to pursue improperly collected dues on behalf of its clients, who could become part of a class action, according to a spokesman.
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Michigan’s 150,000-member teachers union has sicced a bill collector on a kindergarten teacher to recoup $400 in dues it claims she owes, even though the state passed a right-to-work law last year allowing employees to opt out of union membership — which she claims is what she did.
Kimberle Byrd, a kindergarten teacher for Bangor Public Schools, got a notice last month from Account Receivable Solutions for $394.20 in unpaid dues she allegedly owes to the Michigan Education Association (MEA). Byrd, who could not be reached for comment Monday, told Michigan Capitol Confidential she considers herself out of the union as of last year, when her contract expired.
A new contract with a tentative agreement for teachers in Byrd’s Van Buren County district was reached on Sept. 9, roughly six months after Michigan’s right-to-work law became effective in late March 2013. Byrd figured the new right-to-work law, which means unions can’t force workers to join or pay dues, meant she was free to quit when her contract expired. Under the law, union workers have to affirmatively sign up for automatic dues withdrawal, something Byrd and about 7,000 other teachers have not done.
But the MEA insists that its members can only opt in August, or they have to wait another year. Since Byrd didn’t file in August, she is still a rank and filer in the eyes of the MEA. Another year’s dues will cost her around $1,100, she told the Washington Examiner. And even if the August rule is legitimate, she had no way of knowing about it, she said.
Byrd has been a member of her union for 19 years. She estimated that she’s paid as much as $17,000 in union dues over her teaching career.
Yet, Byrd says the union has not helped her in two of her concerns involving her benefits and then engaged in cyberbullying and intimidation once she decided she no longer wanted to be part of the union.
Unions and their allies are trying to flex their muscle in state legislatures, pushing for labor history to be included in social studies curriculum and hoping a new generation of high school students will one day be well-educated union members.
But the results are instead shaping up as a reminder of the tough political landscape faced by organized labor. In six states, opponents have pushed back against demands that teachers offer lessons about the first craft unions in the 19th century, the large-scale organizing drives that powered the growth of industrial unions in the 1930s, the rise of organized labor as a political machine and other highlights of America’s union movement.
California and Delaware are the only states with laws that encourage schools to teach labor history.
Kevin Dayton, a policy consultant to non-union construction companies in California, said the legislation was pushed by unions to boost their ranks.
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In the first year since the Wolverine State adopted a right-to-work law in 2013, SEIU Healthcare Michigan lost a staggering 80 percent of its members.
The case illustrates a dirty secret of the modern labor movement: A lot of its rank and file members don’t want to be in a union in the first place and will leave if given the chance.
What right to work did in Michigan, the Supreme Court might soon do nationally: In the case of Harris v. Quinn, the justices must decide if Illinois state government can force its own public sector employees to participate in a union. If the ruling is “no,” that could effectively extend right-to-work laws to all public sector employees.
The possibility has labor law experts closely watching the case. About half of all union members nationally – more than 7 million people – work in the public sector. Many, possibly a majority, are in workplaces that were unionized before they were hired, so they never had a chance to decide for themselves. Many may leave, hurting Big Labor’s already-sliding membership numbers.
Read the full story at The Washington Examiner.