Grassroots Campaign Informs Workers of Their Rights

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2014 that part-time home health care employees maintained the right to opt out of union membership. Prior to the decision, workers in Washington state, for example, were forced to give 3.2 percent of their paycheck to their local union, SEIU 775.

Now they are free to keep more of their hard-earned salary to save, spend and invest as they wish. There’s just one problem: many of these home health care workers have no idea they are entitled to keep their money by opting out of the labor union.

The Freedom Foundation, a free-market think tank, hopes to change that. They’ve launched a nationwide grassroots campaign of door-knocking to inform union members they are eligible to leave the union and stop giving it their money. The foundation hopes that with the proper information, union members will understand their rights and choose what works best for their families.

The foundation hopes that with the proper information, union members will understand their rights and choose what works best for their families.

“Those poor home care aides who don’t have a clue about what’s going on, a lot of people don’t know their rights about opting out,” SEIU member Hadassah Timali told Q13 Fox after meeting a Freedom Foundation door-knocker.

The SEIU understands that, if given all the information, many of their members would choose to leave. So, when the Freedom Foundation filed a Freedom of Information Act request to receive the names of individuals on their rolls, the SEIU sought a court order to prevent the organization from having access to their list of members — many of whom are paid through government programs.

The court ultimately ruled in the Freedom Foundation’s favor, and the group began canvassing neighborhoods, informing workers of their rights to opt out of the labor union if they chose to do so. The SEIU is not pleased.

The SEIU understands that, if given all the information, many of their members would choose to leave.

But unlike the unions, Freedom Foundation doesn’t use coercion tactics or high-pressure pitches to convince these caregivers. They just make them aware of their right to leave the union, as well as the financial benefits of doing so.

“We simply inform people of their legal rights,” Freedom Foundation spokesman Brian Minnich told Opportunity Lives. “We take great pains to train our canvassers to be knowledgeable, polite and friendly.”

According to the Freedom Foundation, 10,000 home health care and childcare providers have chosen to leave their unions, resulting in at least $10 million saved for these workers over the past two years.

Since so many workers have fled SEIU 925, the union’s rolls have shrunk by approximately 60 percent, leaving the union with far fewer resources to donate to Democratic politicians or advocate liberal policies — policies that the Freedom Foundation argues would ultimately hurt the workers they claim they represent.

According to the Freedom Foundation, 10,000 home health care and childcare providers have chosen to leave their unions, resulting in at least $10 million saved for these workers over the past two years.

“The response has been great,” Minich said. “Not surprisingly, most providers were not aware of their rights. Some providers didn’t even know they were in a union or didn’t know that dues were being deducted from their Medicaid reimbursement checks.”

Prior to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, the SEIU told Washingtonians that if they wished to care for relatives receiving government benefits, such as Medicaid or Medicare, they were required to enroll in their union. After being coerced into joining, the family members watched in horror as the SEIU took money from the reimbursements given to relatives for advancing the costs of their loved ones’ home health care.

In a recent Freedom Foundation advertisement, Brad Boardman recounts how the Medicaid reimbursement he received for costs associated with caring for his sister-in-law with special needs were reduced by being forced to join a union.

“For 11 years, the union has been taking money from her reimbursements without permission,” Boardman explained. “The U.S. Supreme Court ruled this scheme illegal, but the union is still taking money from Medicaid recipients.”

“Some providers didn’t even know they were in a union or didn’t know that dues were being deducted from their Medicaid reimbursement checks.”

That’s why informing caregivers of their rights is an important fight for the Freedom Foundation. They’ve now expanded into Oregon and are laying the foundation for efforts in California. Their goal is a nationwide movement that frees these home health professionals and their patients from the grips of unions.

Meanwhile, the SEIU is trying a variety of political tricks to keep their membership rolls a secret, desperate to keep Freedom Foundation from informing their members of their rights.

But, the Freedom Foundation isn’t deterred. The organization remains as committed as ever to using all options available, including nearly two dozen legal actions and court cases, to ensure the SEIU no longer maintains a monopoly on the home health industry.

As union membership dips to historic lows, the SEIU and others are willing to mislead the workers about whom they purport to care in order to keep their political coffers flush. The Freedom Foundation is shining sunlight for these caregivers, so that once and for all, they can decide for themselves if being in a labor union makes sense to them.

And as the Freedom Foundation is proving, often it doesn’t.

Ellen Carmichael is a senior writer for Opportunity Lives. Follow her on Twitter @ellencarmichael.