The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals found that a state has the right to negotiate exclusively with a union that represents tens of thousands of in home care workers, but that these workers cannot be forced to join the union, nor be discriminated against if they choose not to join.
At the crux of this case is Rebecca Hill, a home health care worker from Illinois who believed that a union representing these workers violated First Amendment rights. It’s a complicated case, but one that has had some rippling repercussions throughout the in home care industry.
Many of the home care workers represented by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) are family members taking care of their aging or disabled loved ones. While they receive reimbursement from the state for their support, some don’t wish to be forced into union membership, or to support the political actions of that union. The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling allows the union to continue operating within the states, but it also allows individuals to determine whether they wish to become members.
This is an important distinction as the union was fighting to force every person receiving Medicaid reimbursement to join, but as people can choose and still receive the benefits of bargaining on behalf of the union, some consider it a step in the right direction.
As reported by Maria Castellucci, writing for Modern Healthcare in the article, Exclusive bargaining agreements don’t violate home healthcare workers’ constitutional rights:
“The 7th Circuit panel said on Thursday that Illinois, and other states, have “rational” authority to use unions to understand the needs of its employees.
“Illinois has legitimate interests in hearing the concerns of providers when deciding what employment terms to offer them, and in having efficient access to this information. Negotiating with one majority-elected exclusive bargaining representative seems a rational means of serving these interests,” said Judge Joel Flaum, who wrote the opinion on behalf of the panel.”
There has been no immediate work from either Rebecca Hill or the SEIU regarding whether they will appeal this decision. The ruling doesn’t appear to satisfy in total either party, and the impact it could have throughout the in home care industry could be far reaching as the SEIU works to gain traction in other states across the country as well. For the time being, the SEIU will remain the exclusive bargaining union for these workers in these states, but membership will not be forced upon these individuals.