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Lawsuit Targets Union Representation of Illinois PCAs

November 23, 2015

Six Illinois personal care aides (PCAs) filed a lawsuit against the state on November 10, arguing that their representation by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) represents a violation of their First Amendment rights.

The PCAs provide care to people with disabilities — mostly family members — who have Medicaid. Employed by agencies, the PCAs rely on SEIU to bargain with the state for better wages and benefits; a 2003 Illinois law designated SEIU as the PCAs’ exclusive representative.

But the six PCAs involved in the lawsuit — who are being backed in court by the anti-union organization the National Right to Work Legal Foundation (NRWLF) — say that they are being coerced into joining a union that they do not support.

The lawsuit is an effort to extend the 2014 U.S. Supreme Court decision Harris v. Quinn, which dealt a huge blow to public-sector unions across the country. The court stated that Illinois PCAs who provide care through Illinois’ consumer-directed home care programs do not have to pay dues to the union representing them. These “fair share” dues were required for nonunion members to cover the union’s collective bargaining and other administration costs that benefit all employees.

The NRWLF represented the plaintiffs in that lawsuit, and they have since tried repeatedly to dismantle Minnesota’s newly formed PCA union.

In a statement to the Chicago Tribune, SEIU spokesperson James Muhammed said that the NRWLF’s goal is “to weaken, if not totally destroy, every avenue for workers to have a voice on the job through a union.”

The lawsuit, Hill v. SEIU, was filed in Illinois Northern District Court in Chicago.

— by Matthew Ozga

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