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Policy: Labor

Labor recruitment pitch shows why you should always read the fine print

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Beltway Confidential,Opinion,Sean Higgins,Labor unions,Labor,SEIU,Seattle

A recruitment letter recently sent out by a Seattle union is a case study in why a person should always read everything first before signing.

The letter promises all manner of boosts to salaries and benefits if the recipient would just join up. In the fine print, though, it says signing up means the union is legally allowed to deduct dues money directly from the signee's paychecks in perpetuity. The agreement provides only a brief two-week period once a year for the signer to opt-out of the union.

That's the gist of a recruitment pitch recently sent out by Seattle-based Service Employees International Union Local 775 to home health care providers. The letter was obtained by the conservative nonprofit Freedom Foundation, which posted it online Thursday.

The letter concludes: "Please join with us and add your name to the thousands of caregivers who are standing with our bargaining team for better care for our clients, and for the professional respect, wages and benefits we deserve. Just fill out the enclosed membership form and return it in the postage-paid envelope."

The membership form's fine print says the member agrees to "authorize my employer(s) to deduct from my wages all union dues and other fees or assessments" and to remit them to the union.

It then states: "This authorization is irrevocable for a period of one year from the date of execution and from year to year thereafter unless not less than thirty (30) and more than forty-five (45) days prior to the annual anniversary date of this authorization."

In other words, members who change their mind and want out can only get the union to agree to this during a 15-day period once a year. Miss it and you are stuck paying dues for another year.

In addition to that, by signing the form, the member agrees to "knowingly release both SEIU 775NW and the State of Washington from any future legal claims or liability related to the State's past collection of agency fees from me."

Local 775 represents 40,000 health care providers in the state. The Supreme Court ruled in June in the case Harris v. Quinn that the providers in a similar program in Illinois were not really state employees. Because of that, the state could not enter into a contract in their behalf with the union, effectively voiding it.

The ruling was limited to those Illinois providers, but SEIU clearly fears legal challenges to similar programs in other states where it has organized providers and is trying to avoid them. The Freedom Foundation obtained a July letter from the Local 775 responding to a provider requesting to be released from their fair share fees (i.e., non-union dues). The local said it had told the state to stop that individual's mandatory deductions.

The union also said it would look into the provider's request to refund previous fair share fees and was still legally analyzing whether Harris v. Quinn would require that. "We will be in touch as soon as soon as we have determined how to process your request."

The membership pitch suggests that SEIU Local 775 lawyer's have come up with a solution: Get members to sign away those rights from the start.

SEIU 775 Nonmember Appeal

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