SEIU

  • November 13, 2017
    Guest Post

    by Debbie Smith, Associate General Counsel for Immigration Law, Service Employees International Union (SEIU)

    Even as the newest Muslim ban works its way through the courts, President Trump has initiated another assault against immigrants by terminating a program providing humanitarian relief to immigrants fleeing civil war and natural disasters. Despite 30 years of Democratic and Republican administrations’ recognition of the importance of continuing this protection, unless Congress intervenes or the administration changes its mind, it is about to end.

    Last Monday, the Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security ended Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for 2,500 Nicaraguans and left in limbo the fate of 57,000 Hondurans who have lived and worked legally in the United States for decades. On Thanksgiving Day, DHS will decide the destiny of 50,000 Haitians who fled the earthquake that decimated their island. In January, DHS will consider whether 200,000 Salvadorans living in the U.S., many for over 20 years, can remain. By the end of 2018, the approximately 350,000 hardworking current TPS beneficiaries will be forced into the shadows and subject to expulsion from the U.S.

  • July 1, 2014
    Guest Post

    by Nicole G. Berner, Associate General Counsel, Service Employees International Union

    In a narrowly divided opinion, the conservative majority of the Supreme Court in Harris v. Quinn ruled against homecare workers who provide crucial care to people with disabilities and the elderly and to the consumers who rely upon that care to live independently and with dignity in their homes. Harris v. Quinn was brought by the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, an extreme anti-worker group funded by the likes of the Koch brothers and the Walton family. The case is part of a broader concerted attack on working people and women in this country. Although the June 30 ruling is a setback for homecare workers, our members are more determined than ever to ensure quality care for people with disabilities and seniors, all of whom want nothing more than to enable this population to live independently and with dignity at home.

    The petitioners asked the Court to disregard one of the bedrock principles of Supreme Court jurisprudence (stare decisis) and to overrule Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, 431 U. S. 209 (1977), a case relied on and reaffirmed in myriad cases since it was decided nearly four decades ago. In Abood, the Court held that a government entity may, consistent with the First Amendment, require public service employees to pay a fair share of the cost that a union incurs negotiating on their behalf for better terms of employment. While the Court declined the invitation to overrule Abood – a decision that would have radically restructured public sector labor relations in this country – the majority instead ruled that Abood’s protections do not extend to home care workers in the State of Illinois.

    The Court’s narrow ruling leaves intact the right of most public service workers such as teachers, fire fighters, and police officers to join together in a union and to negotiate for fair share arrangements. The ruling also leaves intact the rights of the Illinois homecare workers to form a union and to bargain collectively through an exclusive bargaining representative. But the conservative five-justice majority carved out an exception to Abood for the tens of thousands of homecare workers in Illinois, thereby weakening the ability of this majority female workforce to advocate collectively for improved working conditions and quality care.

  • April 7, 2014

    by Jeremy Leaming

    Nationwide fasts of immigration reform supporters that started last year will culminate this week after a 48-hour fast in Washington, D.C. SEIU, We Belong Together and the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM) have coordinated the fasts and will bring 100 women together in D.C. to cap the nationwide movement.

    Thousands of supporters have participated in the fasts and last month, renowned immigrant rights leader Eilseo Medina was arrested while trying to visit Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart at his Miami office to deliver the groups' messages about immigration reform. Medina was released from a Miami jail on March 22.

    After the 48-hour-fast on April 9, the groups will share stories from across the country of people supporting immigration reform with lawmakers on Capitol Hill, urging them to pass comprehensive immigration reform and to stop deportations of undocumented persons. (In a lengthy piece from The New York Times government records show that the Obama administration has been deporting far more undocumented immigrants because of minor offenses than it has stated. The Times' analysis reveals that since Obama “took office, two-thirds of the nearly two million deportation cases involve people with who had committed minor infractions, including traffic violations, or had no criminal record at all.”)

    Last summer the Senate passed a bipartisan immigration reform bill containing a path toward citizenship for a large portion of the country's more than 11 million undocumented people. But House leaders have continued to argue they would consider piecemeal actions instead of the Senate bill.  

    In an April post for SEIU blog, Sylvia Ruiz, wrote, “We want to meet with Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader Cantor on April 9 to share the stories we have gathered from across the country from people of faith, businessmen and women, immigrants, community members and constituents who are all supporting reform.”

    Those leaders, Ruiz continued, “have the rare opportunity to end the pain and suffering of millions of people that is caused by our broken immigration system. These two individuals are responsible for setting the House voting schedule. If they call for a vote on immigration reform, that vote will happen, and the House and Senate will finally be moving forward to fix a system that has needed fixing for years.”

    More information on the events of Fast for Families is here. A recent ACS event explored some positive actions a few states are taking to make the lives of undocumented persons easier as they seek citizenship.

  • December 11, 2013
    Guest Post

    by Charlotte Garden, an Assistant Professor at Seattle University School of Law, where she is co-advisor to the student ACS chapter.

    The past few Terms have been tumultuous for First Amendment doctrine, and this Term is shaping up to be another First Amendment blockbuster, with cases like Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. v. Sebelius and McCutcheon v. FEC on deck. But for labor unions, another First Amendment case has potential to be the biggest game changer: In January, the Court will hear argument in Harris v. Quinn, a First Amendment case about union representation in the public sector. At stake are two important questions:  first, the extent to which states can allow homecare workers who are paid by the state to be represented by a union; and second, whether public employees have a constitutional right to refuse to pay for the costs of union representation. Thus, while Harris involves an Illinois statute that allows homecare workers to bargain collectively, it has the potential to affect the structure of public sector bargaining throughout the country. 

    Illinois is deeply vested in improving working conditions for homecare providers – not only do better wages and working conditions mean more stability in the profession (which is good for consumers), but the state also administers many of the programs that fund homecare workers. Under these programs, while consumers or their guardians choose their own homecare workers and direct their day-to-day work, Illinois determines the number of hours they can work, defines minimal standards, creates training opportunities, and sets the workers’ wages and issues their paychecks, among other job parameters. This division of responsibility between state and consumer sets the stage for Illinois’s decision to allow homecare workers to form a union, and is a primary reason for the legal challenge in Harris.

    Specifically, elected officials made the proprietary decision that homecare workers – a group that defies the traditional hallmarks of a centralized workforce – are entitled to the same right as myriad other workers: the right to choose whether to form a union. The scope of that right, however, is carefully circumscribed by statute. The majority-approved union may bargain only with the state (not with consumers), and only over the economic conditions that the state controls, such as wages, benefits, training, and certain other working conditions.  

  • March 19, 2013
    Guest Post

    by Nicole G. Berner, Associate General Counsel of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and Counsel of Record in Labor Movement Briefs filed in Hollingsworth v. Perry and United States v. Windsor & Elena Medina, SEIU Law Fellow. This post is part of an ACSblog symposium on Hollingsworth v. Perry and U.S. v. Windsor.


    A broad coalition of labor unions, representing more than 20 million American workers, and the interests of working people more broadly, filed amicus curiae briefs in support of the respondents in the Supreme Court challenges to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s Proposition 8. Both cases will come before the Court for oral argument next week. The briefs, the only to outline specifically the economic damages of these laws, advocate for the right of all working people to fair and equal treatment in the workplace, and for the right of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender workers to receive the same employment benefits and protections as their heterosexual co-workers.

    Marital status plays a key role in determining eligibility for-- and taxation of -- a myriad of workplace benefits and protections. These benefits, together with state and federal programs for working people and their families, form the safety net upon which most Americans rely for retirement and financial assistance in the event of illness, injury, disability or death. They are particularly crucial for families in which only one adult works outside of the home or is eligible for employer-provided benefits. Laws codifying marriage discrimination, such as DOMA and Proposition 8, largely deprive LGBT workers of access to these benefits and protections and thereby perpetuate a two-tiered workforce in which LGBT workers are treated inferior to their heterosexual counterparts and unfairly relegated to a lower stratum of economic security.

    Health Care Benefits. Employer-provided health care provides the most common source of medical coverage for working Americans and their families. But for same-sex couples, DOMA and Proposition 8 create a litany of impediments that complicate, penalize or flatly prohibit full family coverage. Without equal access to employer-provided spousal health care benefits, some non-covered same-sex partners are forced to rely on coverage available through public assistance or to go without health insurance entirely. Even for workers whose employers extend coverage to gay and lesbian spouses or who can afford to purchase private insurance for the non-covered spouse, DOMA and Proposition 8 deny access to tax benefits and raise health care costs for same-sex couples significantly, forcing such couples to pay thousands of dollars more on healthcare each year.