Supreme Court refuses to hear home care providers' lawsuit vs SEIU over compelled representation

By Jonathan Bilyk | Nov 14, 2017

U.S. Supreme Court  

The nation’s highest court has denied a group of Illinois child care providers and in-home care assistants for those with disabilities the chance to argue an Illinois state law forcing the care providers to accept the Service Employees International Union as their bargaining representative violates their constitutional rights.

On Nov. 13, the U.S. Supreme Court denied the care providers’ petition for writ of certiorari, ending their bid to appeal and reverse a Chicago federal appeals court’s finding that the state is within its power to compel them to abide by contracts reached with the SEIU as a condition of accepting payment through state assistance programs.

The court denied their petition without comment, merely including the case on a list of other petitions denied.

The petition had been submitted in early June, at the same time counsel for the plaintiffs, with the Chicago-based Liberty Justice Center, had also asked the high court to weigh in on a case questioning the constitutionality of state rules requiring non-union state workers to pay so-called “fair share” fees to unions that represent their co-workers.

The Supreme Court agreed several weeks ago to hear that case, docketed as Janus v American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Council 31. Should the high court side with the plaintiffs in that case, it could serve to expand the court’s findings in Harris v Quinn, which found the state cannot force private caregivers not employed by the state to pay fees to unions. Such a decision could serve to overturn a longstanding court precedent which essentially allowed unions to gain state power to compel all workers to pay fees to the union, whether they choose to formally join the bargaining unit or not.

In the more recent case brought by the care providers, the LJC and co-counsel from the National Right to Work Foundation argued it wasn’t enough to bar unions from using the state to forcibly extract fees from non-union members, but to also bar the state from forcing non-union workers to be represented against their will by unions at all.

While other precedents have held no one has the right to force a government to listen to them, in this instance, the plaintiffs argued, the state is extending such reasoning too far, dictating now who people must allow to speak for them.

However, a federal judge and, later, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals found the state “has legitimate interests in hearing the concerns of providers when deciding what employment terms to offer them and in having efficient access to this information.

“Negotiating with one majority-elected exclusive bargaining representative seems a rational means of serving these interests.”

Even more recently, in October, the Seventh Circuit has also forbidden the non-union home care providers, despite the Supreme Court’s ruling in Harris, from pursuing a class action to force the union to repay an estimated $32 million in fees over six years the union had illegally and unconstitutionally used the state of Illinois to claim.

Judges in that case said they believed the union had collected the fees “in good faith,” relying on the state law in place at the time, and it would now be all but impossible to determine who among those who paid the fees may have actually supported the union, and who now should be entitled to a refund.

Defendant SEIU Healthcare of Illinois & Indiana was defended in the cases by attorneys with the firms of Altshuler Beron LLP, of Chicago, and Dowd, Bloch, Bennett, Cervone, Auerbach & Yokich, of Chicago.


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Organizations in this Story

Dowd, Bloch, Bennett, Cervone, Auerbach & Yokich Liberty Justice Center National Right to Work Foundation SEIU Seiu Healthcare IL State of Illinois U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois U.S. Supreme Court

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