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Freedom Foundation Alleges SEIU 775 was Never Certified to Negotiate (Updated With SEIU Response)

The Freedom Foundation has filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the state’s Public Employment Relations Commission Tuesday, which is discussed below in its news release. PERC Executive Director Mike Sellars said Tuesday evening that he hadn’t had a chance to review the allegations, which date to 2003, but the filing kicks off a formal review process that will result in a determination in the next month. If a cause for action is found, it would go to a hearing before an examiner. If not, the decision could be appealed to the commission, Sellars said. “That’s about the extent of which I know,” Sellars said. “We’ll go through our process with it. I can’t really speculate beyond that.”

Update 1/28, the SEIU 775’s Adam Glickman wrote a response:

“This is just another unfounded attack against low-wage home care workers and their union by the virulently anti-worker and anti-union Freedom Foundation. Attached please find an October 2003 order from the Public Employment Relations Commission amending the original certification and certifying SEIU 775 as the exclusive representative of individual provider home care workers. One would think that an organization that claims to care about taxpayers would get their facts straight before wasting taxpayer money on frivolous complaints.”

The PERC order can be read here.

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 775 has been negotiating contracts with the state of Washington since 2003 and, during that span, has confiscated well over $100 million in fees from home health care providers.

But an independent probe asserts the union was never legally authorized to do either.

The Freedom Foundation, an Olympia-based free-market think and action tank, on Tuesday filed a Complaint with the state Public Employee Relations Commission (PERC), alleging SEIU 775 was never designated as official bargaining representative by its more than 30,000 members, most of whom are home healthcare providers.

“They’ve been pulling a bait-and-switch for 12 years,” said James Abernathy, the Freedom Foundation’s general counsel. “By law, an election must be held and a majority of prospective union member providers must approve the union before it can be recognized as the legal bargaining representative for those workers. But no election was ever held to certify SEIU 775.”

According to Abernathy, an election was held in 2002 during which a different local — SEIU 6 — was designated the workers’ union representative. A year later, however, SEIU’s national leadership ordered the workers be consolidated under SEIU 775 and its president, David Rolf.

“Rolf is a union activist more interested in political gamesmanship than worker control of their own unions,” Abernathy said “Providers are rightly upset Rolf pulled the wool over their eyes to push his political agenda.”

The unions sought authorization for the takeover from PERC, but PERC expressed skepticism that the takeover was legal and before the agency could issue a ruling on the matter, the two SEIU locals dropped their request.

However, SEIU quietly went about the business of assuming control anyway and, today, purports to act as the workers’ bargaining representative, negotiating contracts with the state that generated well over $100 million for SEIU between 2003 and 2013.

“No one ever bothered to ask the workers how they felt about it,” said Max Nelsen, the Freedom Foundation’s labor policy analyst. “And by now, most people just take for granted they followed the right steps and were certified legally. But they never were.”

The complaint, filed on behalf of four SEIU-represented healthcare providers, seeks a cease-and-desist order preventing the union from negotiating further on the workers’ behalf and the return of any dues money collected from individual providers by the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) for SEIU 775 while the union was operating without authorization.

The complaint could also invalidate the new collective bargaining agreement worked out in secret by Gov. Jay Inslee’s representatives and SEIU 775.

The Freedom Foundation, based in Olympia, is a 501C(3) nonprofit corporation that promotes free markets and smaller, more transparent government.

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