On September 11, 2020, an Illinois home healthcare provider came out victorious in a settlement against SEIU Healthcare Illinois and Indiana (SEIU-HCII) union bosses. The plaintiff, Hydie Nance, received free legal counsel from the National Right to Work Legal Foundation.
Nance’s class-action challenged SEIU-HCII union bosses’ enforcement of an arbitrary regulation on workers’ First Amendment liberties to not fund union activities, as established by Supreme Court cases such as Harris v. Quinn and Janus v. AFSCME decisions.
In Harris, which Foundation staff attorneys won in 2014, the High Court ruled that the First Amendment is infringed upon by schemes to seize dues from home healthcare providers who help patients whose healthcare is subsidized by the government. As for the 2018 Janus case, the Supreme Court ruled that mandatory union fees for public sector workers are a violation of their First Amendment rights. In addition, the decision determined that the government can only seize union dues or fees from an individual provided that they give their affirmative and knowing consent.
Hydie Nance provides home-based healthcare in accordance to Illinois’ Home Services Plan. Under this program, Medicaid funds would be provided to people with disabilities so they can contract and pay “personal assistants” to help them out with their daily operations. In Nance’s class-action lawsuit, she claimed that the Illinois Department of Human Services took union dues from the subsidies of home healthcare providers without giving them prior notice “that they have a First Amendment right not to financially support SEIU-HCII.”
Nance made an attempt to exercise her right to halt these illegal dues seizures in both November 2019 and later in March 2020. Regardless of her requests to stop the dues deductions, full dues continued to be taken from her subsidies. SEIU-HCII agents claimed that they could not process Nance’s request “without [her] valid photo id” after she made her second request. In addition, Nance’s lawsuit made allegations asserting that union and state officials did not notify home healthcare providers about the photo ID “requirement” until after a petition to seize dues deductions had already been filed.
Nance made the case in her suit that the dues scheme SEIU-HCII union bosses imposed on the healthcare workers “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.” She petitioned the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois to declare illegal the deductions the union made after she asserted her rights, prohibit continued enforcement of the unconstitutional restriction, and demanding refunds for all home healthcare providers who were negatively impacted by the illegal seizure of union dues.
SEIU-HCII bosses have now stepped back from pushing further litigation and decided to settle the case. The settlement mandates that union officials “not reject or refuse” a request to stop dues deductions because an individual does not possess a photo ID and also makes them provide a refund to Nance for all of the dues confiscated under the union bosses’ unconstitutional dues deduction scheme. Per the settlement, union leaders must also “identify from its records [home healthcare] providers whose requests to resign their union membership” were rejected simply for not providing photo ID and process those requests.
“This scheme imposed by SEIU-HCII union officials forced Illinois home healthcare providers to produce photo IDs just to stop the flow of their own money that was going to fill union coffers in violation of the First Amendment,” remarked National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Though this settlement puts an end to this blatantly unconstitutional arrangement, it is outrageous that over two years after Janus was decided and over eight years after Harris was decided, union bosses still refuse to respect, and devise ways to circumvent, the constitutional rights of those they claim to represent.
“We urge any Illinois home healthcare provider who had a request to cut off dues rejected by SEIU-HCII to contact the Foundation so their rights can be vindicated,” Mix continued.