On May 22, 2020, an Illinois home healthcare provider has filed a federal class-action civil rights lawsuit against the SEIU Healthcare Illinois and Indiana union (SEIU-HCII), for confiscating dues from her payments without her receiving affirmative consent, and for enforcing arbitrary limitations on her right to opting out of dues payments. The lawsuit was filed with free legal counsel from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys and it charges the union with violating home healthcare providers’ First Amendment rights which were established in the Foundation-won Harris v. Quinn and Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court cases.
In Harris, which Foundation staff attorneys won in 2014, the High Court acknowledged that the First Amendment is infringed on by schemes to forcibly confiscate dues from home healthcare providers who help individuals that receive government-funded care. In the 2018 Janus decision, the Supreme Court waved mandatory union fees for public sector workers as a violation of their First Amendment rights, and determined that the government can only take union dues or fees with an individual’s affirmative and knowing consent.
The plaintiff, Hydie Nance, is a home-based healthcare provider “under the auspices of Illinois’ Home Services Plan.” This program allocates Medicaid funds to people with disabilities so they can hire and pay “personal assistants” to aid them with their daily activities. Nance’s grievance highlights that the Illinois Department of Human Services (DHS) seizes union dues from these subsidies at SEIU-HCII union officials’ bidding, and does so without informing personal assistants “that they have a First Amendment right not to financially support SEIU-HCII.”
According to the petition, Nance forwarded letters to both DHS and SEIU-HCII officials in November 2019 asserting her First Amendment right to withdraw her union membership and reduce dues deductions. Both union and state officials did not pay attention to Nance’s attempt to exercise her rights and continued to seize full union dues from her subsidies. The lawsuit also argues that the dues deduction policy the state and SEIU-HCII carries out demands that the DHS to “not respond to notices it receives from personal assistants to stop dues deductions unless and until SEIU-HCII instructs DHS to cease the deductions.”
Nance reiterated her rejection to union membership and dues deductions in March, the lawsuit stated. Although DHS did not respond to the letter again, SEIU-HCII officials forwarded an email acknowledging receipt of her request but claiming they “unfortunately cannot process it without your valid photo id,” directing her to submit a picture of a photo ID in response to the message. SEIU-HCII bosses and DHS officials “do not notify personal assistants that they must submit a photo identification” except in cases where union bosses reject a request to stop paying dues, the lawsuit noted.
Nance’s complaint argues that this process “impedes and burdens personal assistants’ First Amendment right to stop subsidizing SEIU-HCII and its speech” and additionally “impinges on personal assistants’ right to privacy and exposes them to the threat of identity theft.” The lawsuit requests that the District Court declare unconstitutional SEIU-HCII’s continuing policy of seizing dues after receiving written objections and that the court ban the enforcement of the policy. Additionally, the complaint also demands that the union return to home healthcare providers all money it has illegally taken under this policy.
“Individuals cannot be forced to produce a photo ID just to exercise their legal rights, nor does the state of Illinois need the permission of SEIU bosses before respecting the First Amendment rights of healthcare workers,” stated National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Years after the Supreme Court in Harris and later in Janus explicitly recognized the First Amendment right that home healthcare providers have to refuse to subsidize a union, SEIU union bosses and their allies in Illinois still are more interested in filling union coffers with forced dues than respecting the constitutional rights of those they claim to represent.”