Home care aide claims union won’t let her cancel membership

November 3, 2018 GMT

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A California mother who cares for her disabled daughter sued a union representing home health care workers, claiming the group won’t let her cancel her membership.

Delores Polk said in the lawsuit filed Thursday in Sacramento federal court that a telemarketer with the Service Employees International Union pressured her to join and failed to properly inform her that she could decline membership.

The suit is the latest in a string of cases nationwide filed since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that government workers can’t be forced to contribute to labor unions that represent them in collective bargaining. Other cases have been filed in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio.


Some of those suits seek to recover fees paid before the June ruling and others, like Polk’s, challenge strict rules on when members can leave the union, said her attorney, William Messenger of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.

Polk is among a group of workers paid by Medicaid who provide home care — often to a family member. The payments are made through the state controller’s office and California law allows providers to be considered public employees for union purposes.

Polk said she reluctantly agreed to join SEIU Local 2015 after getting an unsolicited call on a stressful and tiring February day in which her daughter had a psychotic episode. Soon after joining, Polk changed her mind and tried to revoke her membership but was notified she hadn’t done so within a 15-day period and would have to wait nearly a year to do so.

The suit said the telemarketer failed to notify Polk that she had a First Amendment right to decline membership and it challenges the limited revocation policy as unconstitutional.

“It shows how difficult it is to get out (of the union),” Messenger said. “People should be able to exercise that right whenever they choose.”

A spokeswoman at SEIU’s national headquarters said the group behind the lawsuit was part of a “coordinated attack” to undermine rights of workers. Meghan Finegan said all members have the choice to join the union and they commit to paying for a certain minimum period of time, which is a common longstanding practice among organized labor that has been upheld by courts.

“This kind of system is typical of many different types of membership organizations and contractual relationships, and it provides some financial stability for the union and helps it plan for the future,” Finegan said. “Millions of union members around the country keep their promises to support their union every day.”

The suit seeks class-action status for the nearly 180,000 members of the Los Angeles-based chapter.