By Susan Johnson
Illinois home health care workers, not just professionals but also people who have been caring for family members for years, are now required to attend training classes coordinated by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), one of the largest labor unions in the U.S.
In these mandatory sessions, SEIU is permitted to use 30 minutes to promote union membership activities. This came about after two recent events: a U.S. Supreme Court decision in June that prohibited the automatic deduction of union dues from Illinois home health workers’ pay, and an indictment of 14 home health workers for fraud.
Sept. 26, the Illinois Department of Human Services sent a letter to the workers informing them of this obligation. The training sessions, called Ensuring Quality Understanding & Integrity of Providers (EQUIP), are held at locations around the state.
The mailer included directions for home health workers to contact SEIU to schedule their required training sessions. The union has also been holding training sessions at its Chicago headquarters.
Illinois pays $2 million annually
As specified by a contract between the Illinois Department of Human Services and SEIU, the state must pay the union up to $2 million annually to provide the training sessions. A special perk for the union is the 30 minutes out of the three-hour meetings allocated for union membership activities.
An article in The Daily Caller noted that the forced training sessions have been mostly unreported. What instigated the new requirement was the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Harris v. Quinn last June. The plaintiff in that case, Chicago-area mother Pam Harris, challenged a law enacted by Gov. Pat Quinn (D) in 2009 that forced the home health care workers to pay union dues to SEIU. Harris has a disabled adult son, Josh, whom she has cared for at home for years. The Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 vote that the forced union dues violated Harris’ and other home health workers’ First Amendment rights.
One of the groups that filed an amicus brief on behalf of Harris criticizing the arrangement between the state and SEIU is the Illinois Policy Institute. The Institiue’s Vice President Kristina Rasmussen said, “What SEIU is doing is forcing people into a room, paying them to be there, and they have a captive audience where they can push union membership on unsuspecting participants.” And all of this is paid for by the taxpayers.
In an effort to make information available to those who are directly affected, Illinois Policy Institute staffers have been meeting with caregivers at locations where the mandatory training sessions are held. Caregivers are informed that they don’t have to join or pay money to a union, their union membership can be rescinded at any time, and the approximately $600 annual dues could be used for family needs instead.
Many caregivers have been relieved to learn that they are not obligated to join SEIU and expressed appreciation for the news. But SEIU was not happy about it, and the Illinois Policy Institute says they have been the subject of a number of registered complaints by the SEIU, many of a petty nature. The IFI asserts that they have been falsely accused of union busting, which they say they have not done. However, they admit that the SEIU considers their literature to be some sort of threat, and IFI staffers said that at one point, union employees tried to snatch materials out of the hands of attendees as they entered the building. Then they brought out membership cards in an attempt to get caregivers to sign up.
PSRC comments on the ruling
The Public Service Research Council is a membership organization governed by a volunteer board of directors. Their policy statement says: “The Council conducts a wide range of activity aimed at educating the public to the dangers of public sector union power and union political influence on public policy. It monitors union special interest in Congress and in the legislatures in all 50 states. The Council provides information to elected officials, policy makers and opinion leaders about union special interest influence.” The Council is funded entirely by contributions from those who share its concerns.
David Denholm of the PSRC commented: “The idea of converting home health care workers into public employees in order to be able to force them to pay union dues was payback to unions for their political support. When the U.S. Supreme Court shot that down in the Harris decision, thanks to the fine work of the National Right to Work Foundation, they had to try to find another way to accomplish that goal. Forcing home health care workers to attend union indoctrination sessions is a prime example of how desperate public officials in Illinois are to curry favor with union bosses and shore up the unions’ sagging fortunes. It is no wonder that labor unions are losing members and that opinion polls show public support for unionism at near-historic lows.”
The Rock River Times attempted to contact SEIU for their comments. After five calls, we did not receive a response from the union.
From the Jan. 28-Feb. 3, 2015, issue