Is New York State abiding by the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Harris v. Quinn, which said that union fees cannot be collected from government-subsidized daycare providers who are not “full-fledged” public employees?
In an attempt to answer that question, we’ve just sent Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests to the state and New York City agencies that administer payments to those providers.
The Harris ruling was the climax of a decade-long push by public-sector unions seeking new territory in which to grow their membership. The Harris plaintiffs were Illinois residents who received stipends from the state’s Medicaid program for caring for relatives. Following an executive order from then-Governor Rod Blagojevich and an organizing drive by SEIU, a portion of their checks from the state were intercepted and delivered to the union.
In New York, public-sector unions set their sights on casual child care providers, including close relatives and friends of low-income working single parents, who receive subsidies from the state via the Office of Children and Family Services and New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services. In 2007, then-Governor Eliot Spitzer issued an executive order that divided the providers into four representation units and invited CSEA and UFT to organize them. Spitzer’s order was enshrined in law with a 2010 bill. By 2014, three of the four units had been unionized.
CSEA president Danny Donohue was quick to insist that Harris was a narrow ruling that would only affect Illinois. At the time, CSEA was collecting dues or agency fees from about 22,000 providers who are organized in two units, VOICE/CSEA and CCPT/CSEA. According to CSEA’s constitution and by-laws, these individuals are paying minimum annual dues or agency fees of $420. When Harris is enforced in New York, CSEA stands to lose more than $9 million in revenue, with the affected day care providers also having standing to recoup previously-withheld agency fees through the courts.
To make it as easy as possible for the agencies to fulfill our request, we asked them to provide the payment records for a single provider to show whether the agency fee collection stopped after the Harris decision. We also requested the communications between the agencies and the providers to determine whether providers were notified about the ruling and its impact. When we get replies to our FOIL requests, we’ll post them here, on NYTorch.com.