A federal judge has denied class action certification for a case stemming from the Harris v. Quinn U.S. Supreme Court decision, which involved Illinois home health care workers and the issue of union "fair-share" fees.
In the Harris v. Quinn case, the nation's high court ruled in June 2014 that home-based Illinois health care aides who receive state funding cannot be forced to pay union fair-share fees.
The small group of plaintiffs in the Harris v. Quinn case did not want to join a union and sued the state of Illinois, arguing that requiring them to pay union fair-share fees as a stipulation of their employment violated their First Amendment rights.
In the latest case, three named plaintiffs represented by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation sought to reclaim fair-share fees for all non-union personal assistants who had such fees deducted from their pay as far back as April 2008.
Such a class would equal an estimated 80,000 personal assistants who have paid $32 million in fair-share fees to the union, SEIU* Healthcare Illinois, according to the ruling.
Judge Manish Shah with the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois Eastern Division ruled against the class certification on Tuesday.
"The union provides compelling evidence that a substantial number of proposed class members did not object to paying the fair-share fee, and would have consented if they had been given a choice. These personal assistants could not have suffered a First Amendment injury," the judge wrote, adding that "65 percent of the proposed class members who are still personal assistants have since joined the union."
The judge determined that the named plaintiffs are "not adequate representatives of such a class."
"Each of the named plaintiffs believes that she did not receive any benefit from union representation, and would seek damages even if it hampered or destroyed the union in its representational capacity," the judge wrote.
"This is a First Amendment case in which subjective beliefs are critical to resolution of the remaining issues, yet plaintiffs seek to represent a class that includes many people who would not want to associate with plaintiffs. The named plaintiffs are not adequate representatives of such a class."
SEIU Healthcare Illinois applauded the ruling.
"Workers represented by SEIU Healthcare Illinois value their voice on how to improve their work and improve the care they deliver to clients/consumers," Terri Harkin, an SEIU Healthcare Illinois vice president, said in a statement. "The despicable efforts by the anti-labor Right to Work Foundation to strip them of dignity and rights are a shameful attack on a workforce comprising mostly women and especially women of color. Our fight for worker and racial justice is far from over but we regard Tuesday's ruling as a major victory in the fight to defend a union movement now so under attack here in Illinois and across this country, funded by the deep pockets and dark money of corporate special interests."
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a group working to "eliminate coercive union power and compulsory unionism abuses through strategic litigation, public information, and education programs," according to its website. The foundation is weighing whether to appeal the ruling.
"The United States Supreme Court ruled that the SEIU had illegally confiscated union dues from thousands of Illinois homecare providers, but this ruling denies those same caregivers the opportunity to reclaim money that never should have gone to the SEIU in the first place. If this order stands it will allow the SEIU to have violated the First Amendment rights of over 80,000 homecare providers with impunity," National Right to Work Legal Foundation President Mark Mix said in a statement.
"If SEIU bosses are not required to return the money they seized in violation of homecare providers' constitutional rights, it will only encourage similar behavior from union officials eager to trample the First Amendment to enrich themselves over the objections of tens of thousands of homecare providers."
*The SEIU Illinois Council sponsors this website.