WASHINGTON – A group of Minnesota home-care providers on Thursday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a Minnesota law that makes a union the bargaining agent for home-care providers who receive public aid.
Lead plaintiff Teri Bierman and seven others claim that a 2013 Minnesota law that makes the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) their official representatives violates their First Amendment right of free association. The plaintiffs want the law ruled unconstitutional.
A district court and a federal appeals court have ruled against Bierman and her fellow plaintiffs, who all care for children with disabilities and receive state funds to help do so.
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is providing the plaintiffs with free legal help.
The petition filed Thursday argues that individuals who are not state employees but receive state aid through Minnesota’s distribution of federal Medicaid funds should not be forced to affiliate with a union if they don’t want to, nor should they be forced to let that union be their official voice in dealings with state officials.
Lawyers for the right-to-work foundation maintain that lower courts should have used a higher standard in determining the free association rights of individual citizens than they would with state employees.
To bolster their reasoning, the plaintiffs’ lawyers cite a 2018 Supreme Court decision that ruled that unions could not compel public sector employees to pay union fees. By a 5-4 margin, the majority of justices in the case of Janus v. AFSCME said forcing public employees to pay union fees violated their First Amendment rights.
“The Court,” the union opponents argued, “held that a state ‘require[ing] that a union serve as exclusive bargaining agent for its employees ... [is] itself a significant impingement on associational freedoms that would not be tolerated in other contexts.’ This case presents that ‘other context.’ ”
A spokesman for Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton, who signed the 2013 law that led to the declaration of SEIU as exclusive representatives of home care providers, said Dayton’s administration “will continue to defend workers’ rights to organize; rights that have helped improve wages and working conditions for Minnesotans who care for vulnerable and disabled people.”
Fourteen states have taken similar stances to Minnesota after unions won legally conducted elections that determined that workers wanted to be represented.
“This petition is the latest in a long string of attempts by a small group of extremist anti-union groups who want to destroy our union instead of discussing the real issues facing home care today,” said Corey Van Denburgh, a home care worker and vice president of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota.