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Anti-Union Organization Sues Oregon Home Care Union

August 19, 2015

An anti-union organization has filed a class-action lawsuit against Service Employees International Union Local 503, which represents more than 20,000 personal care aides (PCAs) in Oregon.

The lawsuit, filed August 12 in the United States District Court for the District of Oregon, also names Gov. Kate Brown (D) as well as several member of her administration as defendants.

Lawyers from the anti-union group the Freedom Foundation, which is based in Washington State, argue in the lawsuit that the SEIU and the other defendants are violating the First Amendment rights of their client, PCA Julian Brown.

Like the rest of Oregon’s PCA workforce, Brown is paid through Medicaid to provide personal care services to elders and people with disabilities.

Since 2000, SEIU 503 has represented Oregon’s PCA workforce, collectively bargaining on its behalf with the Oregon Home Care Commission, a state agency established to protect the state’s interests.

With the union’s help, Oregon PCAs have achieved a base pay rate of $13.75/hour, among the highest in the country, SEIU 503 executive director Heather Conroy told the Central Oregon Bulletin on August 14.

But Brown, the lawsuit says, “opposes being forced to accept SEIU 503 as his mandatory representative for petitioning and contracting with state agencies. He does not want to be forced into an agency relationship with this advocacy group, and does not want to be affiliated with its expressive activities.” The lawsuit says that, while he works as a PCA in Oregon, he is not a union member.

Expanding Harris v. Quinn

The Freedom Foundation’s lawsuit says it aims to “enforce and expand the United States Supreme Court‘s decision in Harris v. Quinn to Oregon home care workers who are not members of the union.”

In its 2014 Harris v. Quinn decision, the Supreme Court ruled that Illinois home care workers paid through Medicaid to provide consumer-directed care who choose not to join their union can opt out of making “fair share” payments, while still reaping the benefits of collective bargaining.

Brown, the lawsuit says, “opposes having to opt out and specifically request that his SEIU deductions cease in order to effectuate the discontinuance” of making fair-share payments.

— by Matthew Ozga

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