SEIU Healthcare Illinois & Indiana (SEIU HCII) was formed in 2008 as a merger of three SEIU-affiliated local unions, one of them being Local 880. Local 880 was created by the ACORN-funded United Labor Unions under ACORN-trained organizer Keith Kelleher as a campaign to unionize Illinois home care workers.
SEIU HCII contributed nearly $3.7 million to its political committee during the 2016 election (donations made in 2015 and 2016), and supports Democrats, strongly favoring challenger JB Pritzker over incumbent Gov. Bruce Rauner in the 2018 Illinois gubernatorial race. The union also funds and gives other support to several left-wing political advocacy groups, most prominently the Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago (WOCC), one of the SEIU’s Fight for $15 affiliates.
Beginning in 2003, when it was still Local 880, the union began participating in an Illinois state government policy (created through an executive order from then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D)) that forced home care aides assisting Medicaid patients to join the union and pay dues. In 2005, another Blagojevich executive order forced daycare providers to join Local 880 if they were serving families that received state subsidies for childcare. Many of the childcare workers were small businesspersons operating private daycare facilities, and most of the home care aides were family members of disabled persons who receive Medicaid subsidies for the care they provide their loved one.
This policy of “forced unionization” was applied at several of the SEIU mega-locals formed during the leadership of former SEIU international president Andy Stern. In 2014 a federal lawsuit by two Illinois daycare business owners led to a U.S. Supreme Court decision that ended forced payment of dues. Dues collections from home care and daycare workers soon fell by nearly 60 percent.
As of 2017 SEIU HCII had 58,140 members paying an annual average of $546 each in dues. The president was Gregory Kelley, who was paid a salary of $158,542.
SEIU Healthcare Illinois & Indiana (SEIU HCII) was organized in 2008 as a merger of SEIU Local 880 and two other SEIU locals, with Local 880 president Keith Kelleher becoming president of the combined union. Local 880 was founded by Kelleher as part of an ACORN-funded campaign to unionize Illinois home care workers under the ACORN-aligned United Labor Unions banner. Local 880 later united within the SEIU in1985. The 2008 creation of SEIU HCII was part of then-SEIU international president Andy Stern’s reconfiguration of SEIU locals into regional and industry-wide “mega-locals.” These mergers appear to have continued, as the organization’s full name has since grown into “Service Employees International Union Healthcare Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, Kansas” and is sometimes now abbreviated “SEIU HCIIMK.”
Kelleher retired as president of the union in 2017, and was replaced by former SEIU HCII executive vice president Gregory Kelley. Kelley was paid $158,542 in 2017.
In 2017 the union had 58,410 members paying dues of $31,929,991, or an annual average of $546 each.
During 2013 SEIU HCII spent more than $1.2 million on hotels, air travel and rental cars, and another $330,000 for restaurants and catering. This included $50,000 spent on a “membership” Christmas party that included a $6000 tab at a Chicago liquor outlet.
Daycare and Home Care Workers
In 2003, then-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) issued an executive order authorizing the unionization of home care providers who care for disabled Medicaid patients. Then in 2005 he signed another order doing the same for 50,000 daycare workers serving low-income families who received state childcare subsidies. In the unionization election, less than one-third of daycare providers voted to join what was then still SEIU Local 880, but all were required to accept union representation and pay dues to the union.
The legal assumption behind the Blagojevich executive orders was that the daycare and home care providers were state employees. In truth, many of the childcare workers were small businesspersons operating private daycare facilities. The large majority of home care aides were family members of disabled persons who receive Medicaid subsidies for care provided to family members, which allowed the disabled person to live at home rather than in an institution.
Under the leadership of former SEIU international president Andy Stern, convincing SEIU-aligned state governors to transform tax dollars meant for the needy into SEIU union dues was a lucrative growth strategy. Other examples of forced unionizations occurred with home care workers in 1999 in California, with the help of then-Gov. Gray Davis (D); and again with SEIU Healthcare Michigan in 2005, with the assistance of then-Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D).
Adding more than 50,000 dues payers was a big membership boost for Local 880. When it merged with other locals to become SEIU HCII in 2008, the mega-local reported 83,291 members and fee payers, (including 41,716 of them voting members) and total dues of $14.5 million. By 2013, the union had 98,873 total members and fee payers (57,130 of whom were voting members), annual dues of more than $39 million, and a $173,879 salary for Kelleher.
Two small business owners operating day cares for low-income children sued the state of Illinois, asserting the forced SEIU dues were compelled speech that violated the First Amendment. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed in its 2014 Harris v. Quinn decision and ordered an end to the mandatory dues. Monthly SEIU HCII collections from providers, running more than $808,000 per month before the ruling, fell to $343,000 per month soon afterward.
By 2017, total union dues payments from all SEIU HCII membership were $31.9 million, down more than $7 million from 2013, the year before the Harris decision. Likewise, total reported union membership in 2013 (which for that year included both voting members and non-voting agency fee payers) had been 98,973, but fell to 58,410 by 2017.
Using Freedom of Information Act requests, the Illinois Policy Institute estimates that $52 million was taken from 20,000 home care workers from 2007 through 2014, or $2,600 each. In a class-action lawsuit still pending as of 2018, former daycare dues payers are asking federal courts to force SEIU HCII to refund $32 million to them.
The union strongly supports Democrats and opposes Republicans. In the 2018 Illinois gubernatorial race it supported Democrat JB Pritzker against incumbent Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner. Following Pritzker’s victory, SEIU HCII president Greg Kelley declared the voters had ended “four years of attacks on working families” by defeating Rauner.
SEIU HCII makes large annual contributions to its political committee: SEIU HCII PAC. For the 2016 election cycle (covering contributions from 2015 and 2016) the union reported giving nearly $3.7 million to the PAC.
Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago (WOCC)
Also see Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago (Labor Union)
Workers Organizing Committee of Chicago (WOCC) seeks to organize fast food workers and advocates for a $15 minimum wage as part of the “Fight for $15” movement. Former SEIU HCII president Keith Kelleher has stated he is an “informal adviser” and that SEIU HCII has provided WOCC with financial assistance, training and staff. Records submitted to the U.S. Department of Labor show nearly $1.5 million in total payments from the SEIU local to WOCC, with almost half occurring in 2016.
Caleb Jennings, former president of WOCC, was accused of sexual harassment and abusive conduct by some of his coworkers and fired in October 2017. In a separate 2016 incident, 50 WOCC staffers signed a letter to SEIU leadership asking that Jennings be removed because of an allegation he had pushed a female staffer during a verbal confrontation – an accusation that led to an internal WOCC investigation that cleared Jennings of wrongdoing. Jennings was paid more than $110,000 by the organization the year before his dismissal.
SEIU HCII records submitted for 2017 show $40,000 in disbursements to three Missouri organizations advocating against the state’s right-to-work proposal and/or in favor of a minimum wage increase: Raise Up Missouri, We Are Missouri, and Give Missourians a Raise.
Other Political Spending
Other examples of spending on left-wing political activism reported by SEIU HCII for 2017 include:
Action Now: $158,000 in donations and payment for “contract services.”
Grassroots Collaborative: $92,975 contribution. This is a left-wing advocacy organization promoting policy changes such as higher taxes on businesses.
Grassroots Illinois Action: $25,000 contribution. This is a left-wing advocacy organization that worked against a charter school expansion during the 2018 election cycle.
Jane Addams Senior Caucus: $8,400 support for a fundraiser.
Citizen Action Illinois: $5,000 for an “annual event.”
Center for Popular Democracy: $5,000 contribution.