One month after the Supreme Court ruled that Illinois cannot force state-subsidized home health care workers to pay union dues, the state has agreed to extend the reach of that ruling to state-subsidized home day care providers as well — backing off on a nearly decade-long effort to benefit a union closely allied with the state's Democratic leadership.
The decision means that an estimated 50,000 people previously legally required to pay dues to the Service Employees International Union for the first time now have the option of leaving the union if they want.
The announcement was made in a July 28 letter from the Illinois Department of Human Services to Laura Baston, a Casey, Ill., day care provider who had previously requested that she be released from paying "fair share fees" — the technical term for the legally mandated dues payments.
In July 17 letter to the state, Baston said the "principle behind Harris v. Quinn applies to me and thousands of other home-based day care providers like me."
Eleven days later, the state told her she didn't have to pay anymore — and that the union had agreed to this: "Although this decision was limited to the Personal Assistants and does not directly impact child care providers such as yourself, the State and SEIU have agreed that this ruling will be applied to child care providers as well."
The letter said that the fair share deductions would cease effective July 1. After that, only those who are card-carrying full members of the union will have the dues deducted.
The letters were provided to the Washington Examiner by the Illinois Policy Institute, a conservative nonprofit group that obtained them from Baston. IPI's legal arm, the Liberty Justice Center, had pushed to have the ruling extended to the day care providers.
Jacob Huebert, the LJC's senior attorney, said they were pleased with the decision: "This means more money in the pockets of day care providers instead of the SEIU, which now stands to lose as much as $10 million [in membership dues] each year."
A spokesman for SEIU Healthcare Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Kansas, which represents the day care providers, did have an immediate comment on the letter. A spokesperson for the Illinois Department of Human Services also did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The day care providers mainly work at private residences — often their own — but receive state-provided subsidies through a child care program. In 2005, then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich, a close ally of SEIU, signed an executive order stating the providers were state employees. He then made SEIU their exclusive bargaining representative, meaning the union could require the providers to pay for its collective bargaining expenses on their behalf — even if they never had an interest in joining.
Blagojevich's declaration was based on the fact that SEIU won 13,484 ballots in a mail-in election on unionization, a majority of the votes cast. There were 50,228 providers eligible to vote in that election though, meaning the union only had the backing of about 25 percent. There hasn't been a recertification vote since then, so it is not clear the union ever had majority support.
On June 30, the Supreme Court ruled that state-subsidized Illinois home healthcare providers were not truly state employees, therefore the state could not enter into a collective bargaining agreement with a union on the providers' behalf. The state home day care provider program is structured in a similar manner to the one for healthcare providers.
Blagojevich is currently serving a 14-year sentence in federal prison on 17 counts of corruption related to his duties as governor.