While the U.S. Supreme Court declared two years ago that the state cannot compel independent home care and child care workers from paying money to public employees unions out of the checks they receive for their work from the state, a Chicago federal judge said the Constitution does not similarly forbid the state from requiring those same workers to be represented by a union.
On May 12, U.S. District Judge Manish Shah dismissed the lawsuit brought by a group of six Illinois child care workers and others who provide home-based care for people with disabilities. The care providers had argued a state law designating the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) as the care workers’ exclusive union representative in Illinois unconstitutionally infringed on their freedom of association rights under the First Amendment.
The law had codified executive orders issued by former Gov. Rod Blagojevich in 2003 and 2005 to the same effect, allowing the union to collect dues and fees from the caregivers, who, while not directly employed by the state, were considered under state law to be state employees, because they received payment from the state on behalf of low-income families and those with disabilities, for whom the workers provide care.
In 2014, the Supreme Court ruled the state could not force the care givers to contribute to a union as a condition of receiving payment for their services through the state.
However, the decision did not address whether the state could compel the care givers to be represented by a particular union, with or without payment.
The plaintiffs, identified in court documents as Rebecca Hill, Ranette Kesteloot, Carrie Long, Jane McNames, Sherry Schumacher and Jill Ann Wise, were represented in the action by the Chicago-based nonprofit Liberty Justice Center and the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
The LJC said the courts needed to take the case law a step further, and declare the care givers should have no involuntary interactions with the unions, at all. Since the care giver plaintiffs didn’t wish to be part of a union at all, the state should be barred from forcing the association, the plaintiffs argued.
They also alleged the care givers who opted to no longer contribute to the union have come under a campaign since the 2014 Supreme Court decision, with union representatives working “to pressure them to sign union cards” and hosting “mandatory training sessions” at which union representatives present “heavy-handed” pitches about joining the union.
In his decision, however, Shah said, while the Supreme Court may opt to revisit its precedent, current federal case law dictates that the state and the SEIU are on firm legal footing in allowing the SEIU to speak to the state on behalf of all care givers, even if there are dissenters who do not wish to associate with the union.
Shah particularly cited the recent U.S. First Circuit Court of Appeals decision in D’Agostino vs Baker, in which the court declared precedent which held “exclusive bargaining representation by a democratically selected union does not, without more, violate the right of free association on the part of dissenting non-union members of the bargaining unit.”
“The state may not endorse taking fees from non-employees without consent, but its choice to listen only to an exclusive representative does not infringe on anyone’s associational rights,” Shah said.
In a statement release following the ruling, the LJC said it intends to appeal the decision to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.
“We are disappointed that SEIU will continue to speak for child care providers and personal assistants who want nothing to do with that group,” the LJC said in its statement. “The First Amendment protects the right not to associate with an organization against your will, so the state shouldn’t be allowed to force the women who brought this case, who aren’t even government employees, to associate with a government union.”
The SEIU was represented in the action by the firm of Altshuler Berzon, of San Francisco.