Senate passes bill to work around U.S. Supreme Court ruling

By ERIN SHANNON  | 
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Feb 12, 2018

This weekend Senate Democrats made good on a promise to pay back the powerful unions that help elect them with passage of union-backed SB 6199.

In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the landmark case Harris v Quinn that individual providers, such as those who provide in home care services to the disabled, sick, and elderly, cannot be forced to pay a union for representation they do not want.  The ruling gave such caregivers the right to choose whether to hand over their money to the union every month.

The unions that rely on the guaranteed endless steam of revenue from forced unionization promised to fight tooth and nail to deprive caregivers of their new right.

Mission accomplished with the Senate’s passage of SB 6199.  The bill directs the agency that currently manages individual providers, the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS), to contract out to a private company that management.  SB 6199 specifies the private company would become the legal employers of those providers. 

As the employees of a private company, individual providers would no longer be protected by the right guaranteed them in the U.S. Supreme Court Harris v Quinn decision to reject paying the union.

Even worse, the bill that is an end run around a U.S. Supreme Court ruling and deprives caregivers of their constitutuional right to choose, will cost taxpayers an additional $26 million every two-years.

Senate Democrats tried to pass the bill in the dark of night last week, bringing the legislation to benefit SEIU to the floor after midnight, ostensibly hoping it would slide through unnoticed in the wee hours.  It did not.  The sneaky maneuver energized Republicans, who made a valiant effort to block the vote.   Unfortunately, that only prolonged the inevitable, and the Senate passed the bill along party lines, with two Republicans joining their ranks, on Saturday afternoon.

Assuming the House passes SB 6199 and Governor Inslee signs it, the 4,000 home caregivers who exercised their right under Harris v Quinn to not pay SEIU will now be forced to, adding more than $2.5 million in forced dues to that union’s coffers every year.  That's not a bad return on SEIU's investment in helping elect the legislators who do their bidding.  And like any good money maximizing business, SEIU will no doubt re-invest much of their new income with more hefty politcal contributions to labor-friendly politcians.

Caregivers lose their constitutional right to choose, taxpayers foot the bill to the tune of $26 million per biennium, and SEIU rakes in an extra $2.5 million every year.

It’s hard to deny the obvious quid pro quo.  Even SEIU can't do it with a straight face—they have refused to respond to media questions with any comment, instead telling reporters to talk to DSHS.  

Senator Braun called SB 6199 the “most disingenuous and cynical bill in Olympia," and blasted his Democrat colleagues for "doing the union’s bidding in the dark of night."   Daily newspapers from around the state agreed, with many editorializing against the bill, including The Seattle Times, which said SB 6199 carried “the strong odor of political favoritism.”

That might be the understatement of the year.