Supreme Court Asked to Hear Challenge to Washington State Scheme Forcing Childcare Providers Under SEIU Union Representation

High Court should apply First Amendment scrutiny and strike down law forcing childcare business owners to associate with SEIU

Washington, D.C. (May 24, 2019) – A Washington State childcare provider is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear Miller v. Inslee, a case which challenges the state’s requirement that businesses which receive state funds for providing childcare to low-income families accept the monopoly representation of the Service Employees’ International Union (SEIU). The Petition for Writ of Certiorari was filed by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys for plaintiff Katherine Miller, who is challenging the scheme as a violation of her First Amendment rights of free speech and association.

Miller, who runs a childcare business from her home, is deemed a “public employee” by the State of Washington solely because part of her business revenue includes subsidies the state provides to low-income families to be used on childcare. As a result, Washington granted SEIU union officials the power to force her under their union monopoly bargaining scheme and dictate the terms of how she runs her home-based business.

The petition asks the court to hold government-mandated forced “representation” to the same First Amendment standard that led the Supreme Court to find in the landmark 2018 Janus v. AFSCME decision that forced union fees violate the First Amendment. In that ruling, the Supreme Court also held that government-granted union monopoly bargaining power over public employees is “a significant impingement on associational freedoms that would not be tolerated in other contexts.”

In this case, Miller maintains that Washington’s policy breaches the First Amendment by forcing her to associate with union officials whose representation she doesn’t want and to which she didn’t consent. Miller’s argument also cites the High Court’s holding in the 2014 Harris v. Quinn case, which invalidated forced union fees for similar home-based care providers on the grounds that they are not full-fledged “public employees.” The petition argues that finding, in combination with the Supreme Court’s observation in Janus regarding forced association in “other contexts,” warrants Supreme Court review.

National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys successfully argued and briefed both the Janus and Harris cases at the U.S. Supreme Court. In both cases the Supreme Court applied a heightened level of “exacting” First Amendment scrutiny to the government-imposed forced dues, which is what Miller asks the Court to apply in her case challenging forced association with a union.

“Based on misreadings of not only Janus but also earlier Supreme Court precedent, courts across the country have looked the other way as union bosses and their allies in government have come up with increasingly outrageous schemes to force individuals under union monopolies against their will,” said National Right to Work President Mark Mix. “If Katherine Miller, who runs a small business out of her own home, can be forced to associate with a union simply because she cares for children whose care is partially subsidized by the government, then there is no legal limit to who can be forced to accept a government-appointed ‘representative’ to speak to and lobby the government for them.”

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.

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