Join the Meeting Place for Moms!
Talk to other moms, share advice, and have fun!

(minimum 6 characters)

News & Politics News & Politics

A Reluctant Union Member Fights Back

Posted by on Jan. 25, 2014 at 12:50 PM
  • 12 Replies

 A mother caring for her daughter fights against forced unionization


AP 

AP


BY: Bill McMorris

Susie Watts has paid Service Employees International Union (SEIU) more than $5,000 over the past eight years for representation she never asked for and does not need.

The union withdraws more than $60 each month from the stipend that Watts’ physically disabled daughter, Libby, receives to help cover the cost of home care.

“They’re profiting from the disabled,” Watts, 57, said. “They are taking money that my daughter is entitled to and repurposing it. We’re paying $700 [per year] for collective bargaining that we don’t want to be a part of.”

Watts is one of Illinois’ 20,000 personal assistants (PAs) who have been forced to pay union dues by Democratic Governors Rod Blagojevich and Pat Quinn.

That pool of “employees” has proved a gold mine for SEIU, which has collected more than $52 million over the past five years. She is now fighting to have mandatory unionism among public employees declared unconstitutional before the United States Supreme Court.

“I’m considered a public employee solely for the purpose of paying union dues,” Watts said. “The money that goes to the union it lowers the number of hours she receives for care. I’m asking out and I can’t get out.”

Libby was born 15 weeks premature weighing only 1.5 pounds. She has undergone 79 surgeries in her 27 years, battling brain hemorrhages and multiple other physical maladies. Her cerebral palsy has left her quadriplegic and unable to communicate.

However, her mind remains sound. She bypassed special education classes and attended primary school with her peers. The situation got complicated after she graduated high school in 2006.

Libby’s disability left her unable to work, which is why Watts enrolled her in Illinois’ Home Services Program. The program provides monthly Medicaid stipends to allow the disabled to avoid institutionalization by paying for personal assistants. Mrs. Watts was uniquely qualified for the program: Not only had she spent 18 years caring for her daughter, she was also a licensed occupational therapist.

“I don’t need union training or their representation to take care of Libby. In fact, I could go back to work and make a lot more money, but I’m a mother so I’m all-in,” Watts said.

PAs had already been unionized for three years by the time the Watts family joined the program. SEIU was able to obtain exclusive representation of the state’s 20,000 PAs shortly after Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed an executive order declaring at-home caregivers—even relatives—public employees.

They eked out a bare majority of PAs with 90 percent of signatures coming from existing union members and the support of only 10 percent of non-union caregivers.

“I wasn’t part of that vote, but non-member dues have been taken out from the very first check,” she said. “When I realized that the state of Illinois had given my social security number to the union to withdraw dues without my permission, I was shocked.”

Watts accepted the reality of the situation and continued to provide the best care for her daughter and two sons. However, she is supportive of the effort led by Pamela Harris, 55, to end the practice.

Harris brought the state to court after Blagojevich’s successor Pat Quinn maintained the forced unionization policy, allowing SEIU to attempt to unionize 5,000 at-home caregivers of the state’s mentally and physically disabled. Watts was eager to join the suit, Harris v. Quinn, which the Supreme Court heard arguments for Tuesday.

“I think Pamela Harris has tremendous courage and my hat is off to her,” Watts said. “I respect the right for anyone to be in a union, but I’m asking SEIU and the courts to respect my right not to be in one.”

Watts attended the oral arguments and walked away hopeful that the justices will see the case through the eyes of parents rather than politics. She is prepared for the case to go either way.

“Libby’s been through a lot physically and medically,” Watts said. “We don’t want sympathy. I just want to maintain her dignity. I will care for her everyday regardless of the court and the union.”

SEIU did not return numerous requests for comment.

by on Jan. 25, 2014 at 12:50 PM
Add your quick reply below:
You must be a member to reply to this post.
Replies (1-10):
blueforewolf
by on Jan. 26, 2014 at 2:40 AM

if someone does not want to be part of a union fine with me but they should also not benefit from the work of unions either (including successful bargaining for increases in pay, etc)

SallyMJ
by Ruby Member on Jan. 26, 2014 at 7:47 AM
1 mom liked this

Please read the OP, and then try again.

Quoting blueforewolf:

if someone does not want to be part of a union fine with me but they should also not benefit from the work of unions either (including successful bargaining for increases in pay, etc)


SallyMJ
by Ruby Member on Jan. 26, 2014 at 7:55 AM

BUMP!

Rhodin
by Member on Jan. 26, 2014 at 8:11 AM
1 mom liked this

Maybe I'm missing something, but it looks like the mom is a SAHM and SEIU is garnishing the daughter's disability checks.

Quoting blueforewolf:

if someone does not want to be part of a union fine with me but they should also not benefit from the work of unions either (including successful bargaining for increases in pay, etc)


MamiJaAyla
by Member on Jan. 26, 2014 at 2:44 PM

I've actually listened to a couple of news stories about this.  The deal is that b/f unionization the PA were gettting MUCH less pay and training and no benefits.  Since there is no "true" main employer b/c really each family is a diff. employer BUT since they do get paid THROUGH the disabilities which are govt. they are counted as govt. employees.

The Union negotiated higher pay rates, more training and benefits... since they did so turn over has been lessened.  This mom is not the only one part of the suit there are 2 others.

It is MY OPINION that family caretakers should NOT be counted as part of the union b/c they are family... even if they are getting paid a stipend to do so.  HOWEVER, by the same they should have to pay their way into training etc. and also not get any benefits (other than the overall pay b/c it would be crazy to separate pay according to union membership)

I can see both sides of the issue but as part of a right to work state I also see that others "free ride" on the what the unions do... they will accept the benefits they will accept the wages, they will accept the trainings etc. but don't want to pay the dues.

BTW, there is a part of the law that says that those who do not join the union do not get the same fees or something b/c their fee cannot go towards any political issues only for barganing and negotiating.

I think that's a lot yearly per person when its just for negotiation and maybe that needs to be looked at.  But like I said I don't like the idea of "free" rides either.

MamiJaAyla
by Member on Jan. 26, 2014 at 2:47 PM

Quoting Rhodin:

Maybe I'm missing something, but it looks like the mom is a SAHM and SEIU is garnishing the daughter's disability checks.

Quoting blueforewolf:

if someone does not want to be part of a union fine with me but they should also not benefit from the work of unions either (including successful bargaining for increases in pay, etc)


Mom is more than a stay at home.  Mom recieves monies as a caretaker.  So basically she's on the payroll as her dd's caretaker.  They are garnishing fromt he $$ paid to MOM to take care of her dd.  She's not just a SAHM b/c she gets actual checks from disabilties made out to HER for caring for her dd.

Which I'm okay with.  I know its a full time job and she chose to stay home and do it herself rather than to trust in others to do it for her dd while she went to work.  I know she's making less than she would otherwise and either way someone would recieve a check from her dd's disability to care for her.

BUT... Mom is NOT just a typical SAHM.  Once she recieves a paycheck she is also an "emloyee"

MamiJaAyla
by Member on Jan. 26, 2014 at 2:59 PM

Here is a link to an article which goes through BOTH sides arguments for and against but I couldn't cut past.

http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/21/us/supreme-court-labor-union-dues-speech/


HEre is a diff article about the lawsuit:


Quote:

abor unions.

Illinois, California, Maryland, Connecticut and other states have long used Medicaid funds to pay salaries for in-home care workers to assist disabled adults who otherwise might have to be put in state institutions. The jobs were poorly paid and turnover was high.

Over the last decade, more than 20,000 of these workers in Illinois voted to organize and won wage increases by joining the Service Employees International Union.

But the National Right to Work Foundation, an anti-union advocacy group, sued Gov. Pat Quinn and the SEIU, accusing the state and union of conspiring to relabel private care providers as state employees so they could collect more union fees.

"This scheme is nothing more than pure political payback," said Patrick Semmens, a director of the group, complaining that unions have helped fund Quinn's campaign.

They are also challenging whether workers who don't want to participate in the union should be forced to pay dues, a longtime union practice known as "fair share" fees. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of several mothers who take care of their disabled adult children at home and resent the idea of paying about $50 a month in union dues.

A federal judge in Chicago and the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the suit, citing Supreme Court precedents dating to 1977 that allow unions representing teachers and other public employees to collect fees from all workers, including those who object to the union.

But the Supreme Court may be ready to reconsider those precedents, and some predict that justices will use the Chicago case to do so.

Two years ago, Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote an opinion that rebuked the SEIU in a California case and said the union had wrongly collected special dues from all employees to pay for political ads. The SEIU said it intended to give refunds later to nonmembers of the union.

But Alito's opinion went beyond the dispute over political funds and cast doubt on whether unions should continue to be able to force public employees to pay union fees even if they don't want to. The 1st Amendment generally protects Americans from being forced by the government to join groups or pay for causes they oppose, he said.

"Compulsory fees constitute a form of compelled speech and association that imposes a significant impingement on 1st Amendment rights," he wrote, joined by four fellow conservatives. "Our cases have tolerated" these forced fees for public employees in the past, and "we do not revisit [them] today."

Conservative advocates saw Alito's opinion as an invitation to mount a broader challenge to public-sector unions on 1st Amendment grounds. In California, Washington attorney Michael Carvin, who led the lawsuit against President Obama's healthcare plan, filed a suit in Orange County against the California Teachers Assn.

He sued on behalf of 10 teachers who objected to paying $350 to $400 a year in fees to support the union. A federal judge rejected the claim in December, but the challengers plan to appeal to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and then the Supreme Court.

The Illinois case also grew in importance following Alito's opinion. At first, the right-to-work lawyers had argued that Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich and his successor Quinn were wrong when they treated the in-home care workers as state employees. While they are paid through state funds, they are hired by private citizens and work in private homes, the challengers said.

Once the case of Harris vs. Quinn reached the Supreme Court, the anti-union attorneys raised the stakes and urged the justices to overturn their 1977 ruling in Abood vs. Detroit Board of Education, which upheld forced fees for all public employees who are represented by a union.

Lawyers said about a dozen states had authorized in-home care providers to join unions and bargain as state employees. They include California, Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Oregon and Washington. Republicans governors in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin repealed those orders, they said.

Susie Watts, a Chicago-area mother who cares for a disabled 27-year-old daughter at home, is glad to have the support but sees no need for a union.

"Nothing could be more meaningful for me than caring for her at home," she said. "But I didn't have any choice about this union. I don't need it, and there is no opting out."

However, Keith Kelleher, president of the SEIU Healthcare Illinois and Indiana, said the union had helped improve the lives of employees as well as those who are cared for at home. "This saves the government billions of dollars over institutions," he said. "We don't want to go back to the old days."

The union contract with the state raised wages for in-home care providers from $7 an hour to $11.65 an hour this year. They also won benefits, including health insurance.

Disability rights advocates hailed the change. "We needed a stable workforce, with good wages and benefits," said Amber Smock, director of advocacy for Access Living in Chicago. "And we did it with the SEIU."

Harvard University law professor Benjamin Sachs, a labor law expert, said it would be "pretty radical" for the high court to strike down "fair share" fees that public-sector unions have come to rely upon.

"With all due respect, this is a public decision," he said. "You can agree or disagree, but the decision to have collective bargaining was made by the majority."

Just as lawyers are required to pay state bar fees, it is reasonable, he said, for employees who benefit from collective bargaining to pay a fee.



http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-scotus-union-dues-20140121,0,853132.story#ixzz2rXIn4v9q


swedish-flousey
by New Member on Jan. 26, 2014 at 5:13 PM
1 mom liked this
I was force to be a part of a union. They were not doing anything for us. We had no contract and hadn't had one in years. I left that job almost three years ago and my feiends there still have no contract. No one gets raises. We were completely screwed. We were told that the union was fighting for the union people in other areas because they are the bigger then us. We didn't have a big union community. I have work for three unions and NONE did anything for us. No joke. We got nothing, i get more out of my non union jobs.
gludwig2000
by Gina on Jan. 26, 2014 at 5:26 PM
1 mom liked this

 I actually agree that if she does not want to be part of the union, she shouldn't have to pay dues to it.

UpSheRises
by on Jan. 26, 2014 at 5:54 PM
No, the mom is receiving additional money that would have otherwise been paid to an in home assistant. SSD is totally different.

Quoting Rhodin:

Maybe I'm missing something, but it looks like the mom is a SAHM and SEIU is garnishing the daughter's disability checks.

Quoting blueforewolf:

if someone does not want to be part of a union fine with me but they should also not benefit from the work of unions either (including successful bargaining for increases in pay, etc)


Add your quick reply below:
You must be a member to reply to this post.
Join the Meeting Place for Moms!
Talk to other moms, share advice, and have fun!

(minimum 6 characters)