ON-Lion Letter
A Washington State Court of Appeals decision in April eliminates the next-to-last obstacle standing between thousands of home-based health-care providers and freedom from a union they never wanted to join and would happily leave if they knew they could.

The decision upholds a lower-court ruling that rejected SEIU 775's arguments for why the Freedom Foundation in Olympia, Wash., should not be granted access to a list of taxpayer-compensated caregivers.

The union's last resort is now the Washington Supreme Court, but the latest ruling establishes a powerful precedent the Freedom Foundation can use should the case reach that level and in other, similar cases involving the state's Public Records Act.

"This is a huge win for workers' First Amendment Rights and the principle of open, transparent government," Freedom Foundation litigation counsel David Dewhirst said.  "Meanwhile, SEIU 775 is one step closer to having to comply with laws it's been blatantly ignoring for years.  We couldn’t be happier."

SEIU 775 has represented more than 30,000 Medicaid-subsidized home health-care providers since 2001, when voters passed a ballot initiative allowing the workers to organize should they desire to do so.  But a 2014 U.S. Supreme Court decision noted that individual providers working from home, usually caring for a loved one, were not full-fledged state employees and could not be required to join a union or pay representation fees. 

The union, fearing mass defections, was understandably reluctant to inform its "members" of their newly affirmed rights, so the Freedom Foundation hired its own canvassers to contact caregivers in their homes.

But in order to fully implement the program, the organization needed the providers' contact information, which is contained in government records.  But when the Freedom Foundation in July 2014 submitted a records request to the Department of Social and Health Services, SEIU 775 responded by suing both the state and the Freedom Foundation to block its release.

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee substantially supports the Freedom Foundation.
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