Could Northwest Union Members Avoid Paying Dues?

Jun 30, 2014

Legal experts in Washington state are still assessing Monday’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling regarding labor unions. At issue is whether unions can require home health care workers to pay certain dues and fees. And, as KUOW’s Liz Jones reports, Washington is one of a handful of states where this ruling could apply.

TRANSCRIPT

Ten states allow home healthcare workers to join unions, including Washington and Oregon. The high court case dealt with similar unions in Illinois. And the justices ruled they cannot require a so-called “fair-share fee.” That’s a fee unions charge to people who benefit from its negotiating efforts but who choose not to be dues-paying members, perhaps because they disagree with the union’s political views.

Charlotte Garden has closely watched this case. She’s an Assistant Law Professor at Seattle University.  Here in Washington, she expects this issue will end up in federal court.

Garden: “I think that’s extremely likely, yes.”

Garden says the high court’s ruling only applies to union workers who are supported by public funds, but not directly employed by the government. It’s a pretty narrow category.  

But Garden says the ruling’s local reach is still unclear.

Garden: “It’s going to depend on how similar the Illinois statute is to the Washington statute in how it treats these home health care aides.”

Jackson Holtz, spokesman SEIU Local 775: “We see a great distinction here in Washington between the Illinois Medicare Home Care personal assistant program and the Washington individual provider program.”

The SEIU local represents nearly 44,000 home healthcare workers in Washington. He says they’re also still reviewing the ruling’s local impact. So is the state’s attorney general’s office.

Either way, Holtz expects his union’s membership will stay strong. He says in the past decade, members have increased their own dues, and an overwhelming majority of eligible workers chose membership.