SEIU 775NW (also styled SEIU 775 or SEIU Local 775) is the northwestern local branch of the national Service Employees International Union (SEIU) that represents home healthcare providers, nursing home employees, and adult day health care workers, mainly in Washington State and Montana.
This local union was created in 2002 to serve as the exclusive bargaining representative for all individual homecare providers in Washington though only 25% of those providers selected the union to negotiate on their behalf.  SEIU 775 is funded by automatically withholding a percentage of its represented employees’ salaries, with a member’s dues amounting to approximately $500 per year.  Since its initial organization in 2002, the union has used its political muscle to nearly double the state-funded compensation of its members, bringing their wages to over $14 per hour,  costing the state hundreds of millions of dollars.
Correspondingly, the union’s annual revenues from automatically withheld dues have grown from $7.6 million to $26.9 million in 2016. In total from 2003 through 2016, SEIU 775 has taken in $210 million in revenues from member dues.
SEIU 775 has used its enormous budget to build itself into one of the Washington state’s foremost political powers.  Described as a “potent political ally” of the Democratic Party, the union has spent big in support of Democratic candidates and liberal causes. These policies range from a mandatory $15 minimum wage,  to Seattle zoning laws,  to whether state tax dollars should be spent on a new professional basketball arena. 
After a 2014 U.S. Supreme Court ruling (Harris v. Quinn) called into question the constitutionality of forced union fee payments by non-union-members in the home healthcare industry, SEIU 775 has waged a years-long legal and legislative battle to prevent the conservative Freedom Foundation from informing SEIU 775 members that they could resign from the union and cease paying dues or fees. In the wake of a court defeat, in 2016 the union helped to craft and spent $1.9 million to fund a deceptive ballot initiative, Initiative 1501 (I-1501), which the Seattle Times editorial board panned as a “Trojan horse […] run by a deep-pocketed special-interest group that wants to weaken the state Public Records Act, reducing the people’s access to government records.”
In 2001, Washington state voters approved Initiative 775 (I-775), which allowed state-funded home-care workers to create a union. The Service Employees International Union spent over $1 million on the campaign to pass I-775. 
In August 2002, after a little-publicized, low-turnout election, SEIU Local 775NW (SEIU 775), having received only 6,575 votes of 25,501 possible votes (25.7%), was certified to act as the monopoly provider of workplace representation for all of Washington’s individual homecare service providers operating under various Medicaid programs. Since then, the union has thrown its considerable muscle into political advocacy for increases in state-funded pay and other state-funded employee handouts to SEIU 775 members.
Currently, the union claims to have 45,000 members including home healthcare providers, nursing home employees and adult day health care workers mainly in Washington State with about 1,000 workers in Montana.
I-775 also created the nine-person Home Care Quality Authority, to negotiate with the new union on the state’s behalf. According to the Washington State Senate’s lead budget writer at the time, then-state Senator Dino Rossi (R-Sammamish), the Authority was stacked with people sympathetic to the union’s cause, which resulted in negotiated contracts that didn’t reflect the reality of the state budget.
In 2017, SEIU 775NW’s president David Rolf acknowledged that the union has historically employed aggressive advocacy efforts to support its political agenda.
SEIU 775 advocacy methods include flooding the capitol with union members, airing TV ads targeting specific legislators,  door to door canvassing, blocking the door to the governor’s office, and the union even went so far as to hold protest at the personal home of the state Senate Republican Leader. 
Over the course of the union’s first five years, the SEIU 775 prodded state legislators facing multiple billion-dollar budget deficits to give their members $400 million worth of handouts through higher wages and other benefits such as vacation pay.  In 2017, SEIU 775NW celebrated an agreement that would raise the average wage for a home-care worker to more than $14/hour.
Dues Skim Controversy
The state automatically withholds a percentage of SEIU 775’s members’ paychecks as dues payments to the union; in 2016, this percentage amounted to about $500 of the $16,000 a full-time provider earns annually.
According to the conservative Freedom Foundation, SEIU 775’s dues withholding percentage of 3.2% is greater than other government worker unions. For instance, dues for the Washington Federation of State Employees are only 1.5 percent of salary.
Before 2014, the SEIU 775NW required automatic dues withholding for all home healthcare providers, even those who did not want to be union members. However, in 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Harris v. Quinn, relating to a similar Illinois arrangement, finding that mandatory union fees violated the free speech rights of home health care workers. The ruling had the effect of forbidding mandatory fee arrangements for unions representing “quasi-public-employees” like SEIU 775NW.
Shortly thereafter, SEIU 775 informed a select group of workers who had previously specifically asked to be removed from the union rolls that they would no longer automatically deduct their dues. But the union left the automatic deduction arrangement in place for all the other healthcare providers statewide.
Freedom Foundation Dispute
After the U.S. Supreme Court’s Harris v. Quinn decision, SEIU 775 was the only similarly situated union in Washington that withheld members’ union dues without the member first affirmatively giving consent. Other unions are required to seek specific written authorizations allowing payroll withholding. However, for the SEIU 775, the most politically powerful of the unions involved, the state merely required that the union’s members be allowed to opt-out of the union through a written declaration.
The conservative-leaning Freedom Foundation believed that SEIU 775 had done an inadequate job notifying their members of the new Supreme Court ruling and its impact allowing them to opt-out of the union’s automatic deduction scheme. In 2014, the Freedom Foundation began canvassing SEIU 775’s members door-to-door to inform them that they were no longer required to pay union dues or fees to the union and could instead opt-out of the union.
In support of this effort, Freedom Foundation submitted a public records request to the state of Washington, which sought all the names of SEIU 775’s members to inform those individual workers they have a right to opt out and to refuse to pay the union any fees. Union leaders have consistently attempted to block the Foundation’s ability to access this public information. The union waged a two-year legal and legislative battle to stop production of records. The union’s effort has been called “outrageously aggressive legal harassment.”
2016 Initiative 1501
In the wake of their public records court defeat, in 2016 the union helped to craft and spent $1.9 million to fund a ballot initiative, Initiative 1501 (I-1501). National Review explained that the SEIU 775 had disguised the initiative with a ludicrous spin that it protects seniors and vulnerable individuals from identity theft. The initiative actually served to exempt SEIU’s membership list from state public disclosure law, thereby preventing Freedom Foundation from obtaining that information.
The Seattle Times editorial board labeled I-1501 a “Trojan horse […] run by a deep-pocketed special-interest group that wants to weaken the state Public Records Act, reducing the people’s access to government records.”
I-1501 was approved by 71 percent of voters. In 2017, the Freedom Foundation filed multiple lawsuits seeking to block implementation of I-1501 arguing that the initiative among other things was unconstitutional.
Dues Collection Lawsuit
According to estimates provided by Freedom Foundation’s litigation counsel David Dewhirst, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2014 decision, SEIU 775 has been collecting about $3.5 million in illegal dues each year. Dewhirst claims that each home caregiver pays about $585 per year to the union, and about 6,000 caregivers did not give written authorization to the union to deduct dues.
In 2017, the Washington state Supreme Court, decided that automatic deduction of dues did not violate state law. However, the Freedom Foundation is currently pursuing a federal lawsuit that seeks to have the union’s dues deduction scheme deemed unconstitutional. 
Left-Wing Political Power
Seattle Magazine in December 2017 wrote that the SEIU 775 over its 15-year history has grown from a scrappy, unconventional union to “arguably the most influential labor organization in state and local politics.”
SeattlePI.com, a major online-only newspaper, attributes the union’s growth in state political power to its increasing membership numbers, Democratic Party-aligned political agenda, and its aggressive approach to lobbying.
Seattle Magazine article also noted that during their 15-year history, the union’s political agenda has vastly expanded. Originally focused just on laws affecting a select group of healthcare workers, the union is now seen as a political force to be reckoned with on a wide array of left-wing issues ranging from fast-food workers’ wages, to Seattle zoning laws,  to whether or not tax dollars should be spent on a new basketball arena. 
Supporting this assessment, Rolf declared that union, as a civically minded organization, focuses not only on issues in their “direct line of sight” but also supports a wide array of left-wing policies on everything from housing, to tax, to immigration policies as well as other left-leaning causes like Black Lives Matter. 
Seattle Magazine summarized, “Perhaps no battle has so defined SEIU 775 to the public as the fight for a $15-an-hour minimum wage.”  According to union president David Rolf, the fight for $15 originated in an industry outside of the union’s purview but they joyfully embraced it and took it up as their own cause, because it related to the liberal political agenda focused on using government to regulate personal incomes across society. 
Support for Democrats
In 2016 the union spent approximately 20% of nearly $6 million of its funds on political activities and lobbying. 
The Olympian called the SEIU 775 a “potent political ally” of the Democratic Party, claiming that “the union has spent big in support of Democratic candidates and liberal causes.” Similarly, the former chairman of the Washington State Democratic Party, Dwight Pelz, said the SEIU’s work has dovetailed nicely with the party’s efforts and he credited the union as a major reason why the state had elected a Democratic governor and a Democratic majority in the Legislature. 
According to a Freedom Foundation analysis, from 2012-2015 SEIU 775 gave over $3 million dollars to PACs, the state Democratic Party, and political non-profits to support Democratic candidates for state legislative office and to fight for passage of specific left-wing policies.
SEIU 775 has developed a reputation for aggressive lobbying tactics, which includes gunning for powerful lawmakers who don’t support their causes. According to the union’s president David Rolf, this aggressive strategy of intimidation has given his union “access” to almost all of the state’s legislators. 
In 2016, SEIU 775, spent $2.37 million on traditional lobbying expenses.
Campaign Finance Controversy
In 2015, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson (D) sued SEIU 775 accusing the politically active union of failing to properly report nearly $1.4 million in donations to its political-action committee.  The union eventually was forced to pay more than $39,000 in penalties related to this lawsuit.
David Rolf has been president of SEIU 775 since its organization in 2002. Rolf also serves as an International Vice President of the national Service Employees International Union. Prior to joining SEIU 775, Rolf led the successful organization of 75,000 home care aides in Los Angeles, described by the union as the largest union organizing campaign since the 1940s.