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Group Claims Washington Union Is Misleading Its Members

An advocacy group is accusing a Washington-based union of going to extreme lengths to keep members from knowing their constitutional rights.

Freedom Foundation, a state-based free market think tank, has accused the SEIU 925 of purposely misleading its members of their right to opt-out of union membership while the state idly let it happen. Since the Supreme Court case Harris v. Quinn, homecare providers have gained the right to leave their union. Maxford Nelsen, a labor policy analyst for the Freedom Foundation, said the union went as far as lawsuits and firing a contractor to keep the information from getting to its members.

“We’re getting conflicting reports from providers of what’s going on behind the scenes,” Nelsen told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “We’ve heard from some providers in the last few days that state employees are still telling them union dues are mandatory.”

Nelsen noted that while it is clear the union is purposely trying to keep information from its members, it is not known if state employees are willingly misleading the providers.

“From what I know the state is doing nothing to inform providers of their constitutional rights,” Nelsen said.

Knowing the state was not going to help, the Freedom Foundation took it upon themselves to inform home providers of their right to leave the union. However, when they asked the state for the contact information of homecare providers, the SEIU sued.

The Freedom Foundation was able to beat the union though, and began contacting homecare providers to inform them of their rights. Nelsen notes the intent was not to destroy the union but to simply make sure the providers knew they had options. Options, he argues, the union was clearly trying to keep from its members.

“In our interactions with providers many didn’t even know they were in a union, let alone that they could opt-out,” Nelsen said.

Nelsen also pointed to one contractor who lost her job with the union as a clear sign that the union is trying to hide information. After five years of service the union informed Cassandra Clemans that it was terminating a contract they had with her business, Childcare Advocates Resource and Education.

Clemans argues the reason for the termination was that she posted a link to a Freedom Foundation article on CARE’s Facebook page explaining that family child care providers can opt out of paying union dues. The union however says the termination was because they found a better replacement.

“I was called on November 7, 2014 by Tricia Schroeder, SEIU Executive Vice President and was informed that SEIU considers themselves under ‘attack’ by the Freedom Foundation,” Clemans detailed in a statement. “Since I had a contract with SEIU, it was SEIU’s opinion that I was supporting the Freedom Foundation and that if I did not pull the link, I could be jeopardizing the upcoming SEIU/CARE Contract. I made it very clear by stating that I felt it was very important to inform Providers that they do have the right to opt out of paying SEIU dues and was not going to pull the link.”

A spokesman for the union refuted the claims, telling TheDCNF, “We chose to contract with an attorney to provide better services for our members.”

“I would expect them to say something along those lines,” Nelsen noted. “They wouldn’t admit they fired a contractor for posting something on Facebook.”

“I am very aware of who the Attorney is that SEIU has decided to contract with, now known as Elizabeth Steen with Washington Business Advocates,” Clemans noted in her statement.  “I caution Providers to be very careful in who represents them and to make sure that whoever they hire to represent them is truly experienced, does not promise more than they can deliver, knows the DEL paperwork, the OAH process, are courteous, respectful, will listen to you and be non-abrasive to the many WA State agencies that a childcare advocate is required to deal with.”

Nelsen also argues that the whole thing is very hypocritical of the union which has in the past protested against companies who fired people for posting pro-union material.

“It reeks of hypocrisy,” Nelsen noted. “I’m not saying it’s illegal but it’s defiantly hypocritical and inappropriate.”

Currently the state legislature is considering a bill that would clarify the laws and make the state more compliant with the verdict in Harris v. Quinn.

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