Cases challenge coercive, anti-Janus “escape periods” concocted by union bosses

From the National Right to Work Foundation’s January 2021 Defense Action Newsletter:

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – The 2014 National Right to Work Foundation victory for Pam Harris in the Harris v. Quinn Supreme Court case established that union bosses violate the First Amendment when they skim dues from homecare providers’ state subsidies without their consent. Now, seven California homecare providers have just appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals their federal lawsuit against Service Employee International Union (SEIU) Local 2015 officials for continuing to skim dues in violation of their rights.

According to their suit, SEIU honchos enforced a phony “escape period” on the homecare providers, illegally limiting the time in which they could stop the deductions. The providers’ suit says this contravenes the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Janus v. AFSCME. The Court not only held that the government cannot force individuals to subsidize union activities as a condition of employment, but also that government agencies can only deduct union payments after receiving a clear and knowing waiver of their First Amendment right not to make such payments. 

Dues-Skim Scam:  SEIU Took Dues Without Informing Providers of Rights

Although the plaintiffs, Delores Polk, Heather Herrick, Lien Loi, Peter Loi, Susan McKay, Jolene Montoya and Scott Ungar, are not public employees, they were designated as such solely for the purpose of monopoly unionization.Then that was used as justification for the State of California to skim union dues from their payments at the behest of SEIU officials. The seven participate in the In-Home Support Services (IHSS) program, which allots Medicaid funds to those who provide home-based aid to people with disabilities.

Polk and the other plaintiffs recount in the lawsuit that SEIU union bosses began taking cuts of their Medicaid subsidies after confusing phone calls or mandatory orientation sessions. After the plaintiffs contacted the SEIU attempting to exercise their right to stop the flow of dues, SEIU operatives informed them that they could only opt out of union dues during short union-created “escape periods” of 10-30 days once per year. 

The lawsuit also points out that the federal law governing IHSS forbids diverting any part of Medicaid payments to “any other party” besides the providers. In fact, in rulemaking urged by National Right to Work Foundation comments, the federal agency that administers Medicaid confirmed that skimming such payments for unions violates the Medicaid statute passed by Congress. 

The seven plaintiffs now seek a ruling that both the taking of union dues without their knowing consent and the policy restricting the providers from ending the dues deductions are unconstitutional. The providers also seek refunds of all money that they and any other IHSS program participants had taken from their payments through the illegal scheme.

Alaska Union Bosses Confine Prison Employee in Unconstitutional Deductions

Also at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Alaska vocational instructor Christopher Woods recently filed an appeal in his case challenging an “escape period” scheme to block him and other Alaska state employees from exercising their First Amendment rights recognized in Janus.

In a November 2019 email, Woods, who has worked as a vocational instructor at Goose Creek Correctional Center since 2013, informed Alaska State Employees’ Association (ASEA) officials he was exercising his Janus right to stop all union dues deductions. Rather than respect his rights, union officials rejected his request and told Woods that he could only “opt out” and not be a union member with written notice to this office during a 10-day period each year.

Woods persisted on December 2, 2019, submitting to both ASEA officials and the payroll office of the Corrections Department another email asking to cut off dues. Although the payroll office confirmed to both Woods and the ASEA that it had received the request, an ASEA official responded by merely telling the payroll office that she was “still communicating with [Woods] on the matter,” the complaint says. Woods reports in his lawsuit that he has “not received any further communications” from either the ASEA or the payroll office, and that full dues are still being seized from his paychecks.

Foundation String of Triumphs Against Janus Restrictions Unlikely to End

“‘Escape periods’ are shameless union boss-concocted schemes that only exist to keep dues money rolling into their coffers after employees have clearly communicated that they do not wish to support the union,” observed National Right to Work Vice President and Legal Director Raymond LaJeunesse. “Although these arrangements are egregious in any context, trapping homecare providers in dues-skim schemes which deprive them of money they receive for taking care of the disabled is particularly unconscionable, and additionally breaches federal law which prohibits those funds from going anywhere other than to the people giving care.

“Whether it’s the landmark victories in Harris and Janus or the eight recent lawsuits in which Foundation staff attorneys have knocked down ‘escape period’ policies and secured refunds of illegal dues for workers, the Foundation has a track record of success in these cases. Union bosses shouldn’t hold their breath in the hopes of keeping seized dues,” LaJeunesse added.

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