Appeals Ct. to Hear Illinois Homecare Providers’ Forced Union Dues Case Seeking Over $32M

Mark Mix
By Mark Mix | May 17, 2017 | 12:04 PM EDT

SEIU members protesting (Flickr/Labeled for Reuse)

Today, National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorney Bill Messenger will argue before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit on behalf of Illinois homecare personal assistants in Riffey v. SEIU. The case attempts to win back more than thirty-two million dollars in forced dues illegally seized by a Service Employees International Union (SEIU) scheme that the U.S. Supreme Court deemed unconstitutional in the 2014 Foundation-won Harris v. Quinn decision.

The case stems from an executive order issued by former Governor Rob Blagojevich that classified as “public employees” more than 20,000 individuals who provide in-home care to disabled persons receiving state subsidies” which meant that the providers could be unionized. As a result, these in-home care givers, many of them parents caring for their own children, were targets of coercive “card-check” union organizing drives.  

Staff attorneys with the National Right to Work Foundation assisted eight of these providers in filing a federal lawsuit challenging the scheme and eventually in petitioning the Supreme Court to hear the case. The High Court took the case and, on June 30, 2014, it Court ruled that SEIU’s forced dues scheme imposed by Governor Blagojevich is unconstitutional because it violates the First Amendment rights of the in-home care providers.

“If we accepted Illinois’ argument” that homecare workers can be forced to pay union dues, wrote Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. in the majority opinion, “we would approve an unprecedented violation of the bedrock principle that, except perhaps in the rarest of circumstances, no person in this country may be compelled to subsidize speech by a third party that he or she does not wish to support.”

After the Supreme Court’s June 2014 ruling in Harris – now designated Riffey v. SEIU – the case was remanded to the District Court to settle the remaining issues, including whether SEIU would be required to return more than $32 million in dues confiscated from nonmembers through its unconstitutional scheme.

In June 2016, the District Court ruled that SEIU did not have to repay these funds. That decision was immediately appealed to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals where Foundation staff attorney Bill Messenger will appear today.

If SEIU union bosses are allowed to keep the millions in unconstitutionally seized dues it would be outrageous and a perversion of justice. These homecare providers should not have to jump through all these hoops just to get the money that is rightfully theirs after the Supreme Court ruled the dues seizures unconstitutional.

Mark Mix is President of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. He also serves as President of the National Right to Work Committee, a 2.6 million member public policy organization.


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