Inslee signs controversial union bill

Opponents argue the true intention is to let a union chapter skirt a court ruling.

  • By Wire Service
  • Tuesday, March 27, 2018 7:18pm
  • Northwest

Associated Press

OLYMPIA — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee has sided with public-sector unions in a showdown with Republicans and anti-labor groups by approving a controversial bill that will alter the contracting structure of home health care workers.

The News Tribune reports that Senate Bill 6199, which Inslee signed Tuesday, had drawn calls for a veto from many in the GOP and the conservative nonprofit Freedom Foundation, who argued the true intention is to let a chapter of the powerful Service Employees International Union skirt a court ruling to collect more money from employees.

Supporters have billed the measure as a way to streamline management services of the health care workers, known as individual providers.

Those roughly 35,000 providers currently contract with the state to serve the elderly and people with developmental disabilities. SB 6199 was first requested by the Department of Social and Health Services. At least 17 other states use private third-parties to run in-home care services, according to a letter sent to the Legislature by Bill Moss, an assistant secretary at the agency.

After the bill signing, Inslee dismissed the underlying union debate, telling reporters the restructuring is “driven by efficiencies and a good way to serve people.”

The legislation could play into a long legal battle over whether such home care workers should be required to pay for collective-bargaining costs.

Since Washington is not a so-called “right to work state,” union-only shops are legal. That allows public and private sector unions to charge fees to nonmembers in place of dues. The fees are known as representation fees or agency fees.

Typically, nonmembers must pay only for bargaining-related costs, meaning they don’t have to pay dues that bankroll overt political action. Workers are allowed to claim a religious or ethical exemption and pay an amount equal to union dues to a charity of their choice.

The state’s home care workers are an exception.

They’re considered state employees when it comes to collective bargaining because they contract with the Department of Social and Health Services, but they are not full-fledged public employees, partly because they can be hired or fired by the people who receive services from them.

In the landmark 2014 U.S. Supreme Court decision known as Harris v. Quinn, the court said such quasi-public employees are not required to pay agency fees or union dues since they’re not full state workers.

This is where SB 6199 would come in. The bill makes home care workers private employees by outsourcing the state’s contracting role to a private vendor.

The individual providers still would bargain over wages and more with the governor’s office and a 14-member board that includes state officials, but they technically would be employees of the private entity.

That private status would allow SEIU 775 to create a shop where home care workers must pay either union dues or agency fees if they don’t claim religious exemptions.

Maxford Nelsen, the foundation’s director of labor policy, has said public records show roughly 4,000 home care workers currently choose not to withhold union dues from their paychecks.

It’s unclear if that number would rise or fall if SEIU does change its structure to compel agency fees.

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Northwest

Alaska Airlines aircraft sit in the airline's hangar at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2024, in SeaTac, Wash. Boeing has acknowledged in a letter to Congress that it cannot find records for work done on a door panel that blew out on an Alaska Airlines flight over Oregon two months ago. Ziad Ojakli, Boeing executive vice president and chief government lobbyist, wrote to Sen. Maria Cantwell on Friday, March 8 saying, “We have looked extensively and have not found any such documentation.” (AP Photo/Lindsey Wasson)
FBI tells passengers on 737 flight they might be crime victims

Passengers received letters this week from a victim specialist from the federal agency’s Seattle office.

Skylar Meade (left) and Nicholas Umphenour.
Idaho prison gang member and accomplice caught after ambush

Pair may have killed 2 while on the run, police say. Three police officers were hospitalized with gunshot wounds after the attack at a Boise hospital.

Barbara Peraza-Garcia holds her 2-year-old daughter, Frailys, while her partner Franklin Peraza sits on their bed in their 'micro apartment' in Seattle on Monday, March 11, 2024. (AP Photo/Manuel Valdes)
Micro-apartments are back after nearly a century, as need for affordable housing soars

Boarding houses that rented single rooms to low-income, blue-collar or temporary workers were prevalent across the U.S. in the early 1900s.

Teen blamed for crash that kills woman, 3 children in Renton

Four people were hospitalized, including three with life-threatening injuries. The teenage driver said to be at fault is under guard at a hospital.

Snow is visible along the top of Mount Pilchuck from bank of the Snohomish River on Wednesday, May 10, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Washington issues statewide drought declaration, including Snohomish County

Drought is declared when there is less than 75% of normal water supply and “there is the risk of undue hardship.”

Dave Calhoun, center, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on Jan. 24. (Samuel Corum / Bloomberg)
Boeing fired lobbying firm that helped it navigate 737 Max crashes

Amid congressional hearings on Boeing’s “broken safety culture,” the company has severed ties with one of D.C.’s most powerful firms.

Rosario Resort and Spa on Orcas Island (Photo provided by Empower Investing)
Orcas Island’s storied Rosario Resort finds a local owner

Founded by an Orcas Island resident, Empower Investing plans” dramatic renovations” to restore the historic resort.

People fill up various water jug and containers at the artesian well on 164th Street on Monday, April 2, 2018 in Lynnwood, Wa. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
Washington will move to tougher limits on ‘forever chemicals’ in water

The federal EPA finalized the rules Wednesday. The state established a program targeting the hazardous chemicals in drinking water in 2021.

Everett
State: Contractor got workers off Craigslist to remove asbestos in Everett

Great North West Painting is appealing the violations and $134,500 fine levied by the state Department of Labor Industries.

Riley Wong, 7, shows his pen pal, Smudge, the picture he drew for her in addition to his letter at Pasado's Safe Haven on Friday, Feb. 19, 2021 in Monroe, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Snohomish County organization rescues neglected llamas in Yakima County

Pasado’s Safe Haven planned to provide ongoing medical care and rehabilitation to four llamas in its care at its sanctuary.

Whidbey cop accused of rape quits job after internal inquiry

The report was unsparing in its allegations against John Nieder, who is set to go to trial May 6 in Skagit County Superior Court on two counts of rape in the second degree.

LA man was child rape suspect who faked his death

Coroner’s probe reveals the Los Angeles maintenance man was a Bremerton rape suspect believed to have jumped off the Tacoma Narrows Bridge.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.