CHICAGO – Illinois-based home child care providers who paid "fair share" fees for almost nine years to a union they did not support will not get that money back following a lawsuit, after a federal judge who heard their case rejected the plaintiffs' argument the arrangement violated their constitutional rights and said the union can keep the money because it collected the money in "good faith."
But a lawyer involved in the effort to secure a U.S. Supreme Court decision undoing those fair share fees says he hopes a federal appeals court will still force the union to pay that money back.
The judgment by U.S. District Court Judge Manish S. Shah for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) diminished the precedent set in 2014 by the U.S. Supreme Court, which deemed the fees unconstitutional in its decision in Harris v. Quinn. Afterward, in July of 2014, the state of Illinois and SEIU both agreed to discontinue collecting fees from non-union home care providers.
The Supreme Court decision prompted the class-action lawsuit brought by Sandy Winner and Laura Baston against the SEIU to refund an estimated $20 million. The plaintiffs argued that there was nothing fair about the "fair share" fees, claiming that "Harris sent a message" and that to continue holding onto the ill-gotten money was a blatant disregard for their constitutional rights and the epitome of deceitfulness.
On Dec. 20, 2016, Shah ruled for the SEIU and the state. The judgment is based on a 2005 state executive action, which changed state law to designate the SEIU to represent home child care providers who received money from the state through subsidized programs on behalf of those they cared for. Although the law did not expressly permit the union to collect "fair share" fees from nonunion home child care providers, the SEIU relied on the existing law to justify collecting the fees.
Dave Howard, an attorney for plaintiffs Winner and Baston, declined to comment on the decision.
However, Jacob Huebert of the Liberty Justice Center in Chicago said he “respectfully disagrees” with Shah’s decision. The Liberty Justice Center had been involved in the effort in support of the plaintiffs in Harris v Quinn.
It may be argued that SEIU acted in good faith during the collecting and retaining of those fees. In fact, Shah wrote, “SEIU’s reliance on relevant precedent was reasonable.” The SEIU believed it should not have to refund the money because it had collected the fees solely based on state law and could not have known the whether the state had the constitutional authority to collect the fees.
But while the union argued it acted in good faith, Huebert said “they should have to pay back all of that money.”
The real question, Huebert said, is,:“Who in all fairness should be the one to bear the loss, the SEIU or the day care providers that never wanted to give the money in the first place? I think it should be them (SEIU).”
Assuming the plaintiffs in this case appeal Shah’s decision, Huebert believes a strong argument would include dispelling the good-faith defense since the union is not entitled to keep the money that was “illegally taken.” Huebert said the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals is free to reject the decision, and he believed it should do so, because he said there is not a precedent that says otherwise.