Union requires home healthcare providers to submit photo identification just to exercise constitutional right to stop union dues deductions
Chicago, IL (May 22, 2020) – An Illinois home healthcare provider has filed a federal class-action civil rights lawsuit against the SEIU Healthcare Illinois and Indiana union (SEIU-HCII), for seizing dues from her compensation without her affirmative consent, and for enforcing arbitrary restrictions on her right to cut off dues deductions. The lawsuit, filed with free legal aid from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys, charges the union with breaching home healthcare providers’ First Amendment rights under the Foundation-won Harris v. Quinn and Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court 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.
The 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. Nance’s complaint points out that the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS) deducts union dues from these subsidies at the behest of SEIU-HCII union officials, and does so without notifying personal assistants “that they have a First Amendment right not to financially support SEIU-HCII.”
According to the complaint, Nance sent letters to both DHS and SEIU-HCII officials in November 2019 exercising her First Amendment right to end her union membership and cut off dues deductions. Both union and state officials ignored Nance’s attempt to exercise her rights and continued to deduct full union dues from her subsidies. The lawsuit also alleges that the dues deduction policy the state and SEIU-HCII enforce requires the DHS to “not respond to notices it receives from personal assistants to stop dues deductions unless and until SEIU-HCII instructs DHS to cease the deductions.”
Nance renewed her objection to union membership and dues deductions in March, the lawsuit says. While DHS again did not respond to the letter, SEIU-HCII officials sent an email acknowledging receipt of her request but claiming they “unfortunately cannot process it without your valid photo id,” instructing her to submit a picture of a photo ID in response to the message. SEIU-HCII bosses and DHS officials “do not notify personal assistants that they must submit a photo identification” unless union bosses reject a request to cut off dues, the lawsuit notes.
Nance’s complaint contends that this process “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.” The lawsuit asks that the District Court declare unconstitutional SEIU-HCII’s continuing dues seizures after receiving written objections and that the court forbid enforcement of the policy. The complaint also requests that the union return to home healthcare providers all money it has seized illegally under the policy.
One of the attorneys representing Nance is William Messenger, a veteran National Right to Work Foundation staff attorney who argued and won the Janus and Harris cases at the Supreme Court. The lead plaintiff in the latter case, Pamela Harris, is also an Illinois home healthcare provider who filed suit with free legal aid from the Foundation after the SEIU sought to force her to pay union fees just for receiving state subsidies to care for her son in her own home.
“Individuals cannot be forced to produce a photo ID just to exercise their legal rights, nor does the state of Illinois need the permission of SEIU bosses before respecting the First Amendment rights of healthcare workers,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Years after the Supreme Court in Harris and later in Janus explicitly recognized the First Amendment right that home healthcare providers have to refuse to subsidize a union, SEIU union bosses and their allies in Illinois still are more interested in filling union coffers with forced dues than respecting the constitutional rights of those they claim to represent.”
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.