This measure, written and sponsored by SEIU, purports to be about protecting seniors from fraud. But that’s not really the case. This is: In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Harris v. Quinn that caregivers who were receiving state Medicaid dollars for their work could not be considered state employees, and thus could not be forced to join state-employee unions. The liberals on the court rightly decried this decision, since it ignored the fact that caregivers’ wages are set by the states, and in states like Washington those wages were set through negotiations with a union. Thus, caregivers could legally not pay dues while still benefiting from the work of the union. Knowing that such freeloading cuts at the very foundation of organized labor, the Olympia-based anti-union group Freedom Foundation used the state’s Public Records Act to get the names and addresses of all home-health-care workers in the state represented by SEIU and informed them of their right to not pay dues. SEIU has a legitimate grievance with this situation. However, their proposed solution—I-1501—is ill-advised. I-1501 would exempt caregivers’ names and addresses from the public disclosure laws so as to prevent the Freedom Foundation from contacting them. The Pro-I-1501 campaign frames its initiative as a way to protect seniors (and their caregivers) from fraud; to that end, along with changing the PRA, it increases the punishment for bilking seniors. That’s a good talking point, but it’s also a smokescreen. Restricting the flow of state information to prevent people from knowing their rights is a dangerous precedent Washington voters should not be tricked into setting. Vote no, and let’s figure out other ways to help unions thrive in the state.
Read the rest of Seattle Weekly’s endorsements for the 2016 general election here.