Home Care Workers Sue Over Unionization

Some Illinois home care workers have sued state officials for forcing them to be represented by the Service Employees International Union, even after the Supreme Court previously ruled that in-home care providers shouldn’t be compelled to pay union dues.

The lawsuit, filed in Chicago by the National Right to Work Legal Foundation on behalf of the workers, argues that in-home caregivers should be able to choose who represents them, particularly when it comes to public policies with the potential to affect them. Plaintiffs in the case include home health care employees who help Medicaid-covered people with disabilities and workers who care for low-income children Defendants listed are SEIU, as well as Tom Tyrrell, director of the Department of Central Management Services, and Gregory Bassi, general counsel of the Department of Human Services.

“Home-based caregivers should not be forced to associate with a union they have no interest in joining or supporting,” Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation, said in a prepared statement.

Meanwhile, a union spokesman said the foundation is trying “to weaken, if not totally destroy, every avenue for workers to have a voice on the job through a union.”

“Home care and child care workers united in SEIU Healthcare are proud of the gains won over several decades—from raising home care workers’ wages…to trainings that enhance the quality of care delivered,” James Muhammad said in a statement.

Representatives for the state officials denied the Chicago Tribune’s request for comment on the case.

Plaintiffs also attacked mandatory union fees that home care workers have been saddled with, even if they don’t want to join the union. Illinois is one of more than two dozen states that require public-sector employees to pay partial dues, known as “agency fees,” for a union’s services, regardless of membership status, the Tribune reports.

The lawsuit comes just a year after the Supreme Court decided that home care workers aren’t full-fledged public employees since they can be hired and fired directly by patients and work in private homes, and they therefore shouldn’t be forced to pay union dues.

Written by Kourtney Liepelt