SEATTLE (AP) — A union representing home care aides has agreed to pay $3.25 million to settle a federal lawsuit alleging that it collected dues from workers without consent.
SEIU 775 represents independent workers who provide home-based care to elderly clients eligible for Medicaid. Washington state pays the workers directly, and for more than a decade it automatically deducted union dues and turned the money over to SEIU 775.
In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that such practices violate the First Amendment rights of the workers. Washington state then required the home workers to provide written notice if they wanted to cancel the automatic dues deduction.
Last year, the high court made clear that was also unacceptable. It held that states and unions can't collect the dues without affirmative consent from the workers. Some of the workers then sued seeking to be reimbursed for the dues they had paid.
In a statement, the Freedom Foundation, which represents some of the workers, called the settlement good news, but said it represents just a fraction of the dues at issue. It estimated that SEIU gained as much as $15 million since 2014. Its clients seeking reimbursement were not part of the lawsuit that the SEIU settled; they have the option of joining the settlement class or continuing to pursue their own lawsuit.
The foundation called the settlement "a long-overdue vindication of caregivers' rights."
The SEIU said it decided to settle given the costs of litigation and the rightward tilt of the U.S. Supreme Court. It said that before the home care workers unionized in 2002, they made $7 an hour with no benefits. By 2021, their starting wage will be $16.72 an hour, and those with advanced training and experience will earn more than $20, the statement said.