On Friday, Gov. Tom Wolf issued an executive order that effectively helps SEIU (Service Employees International Union) unionize home health care workers. Many of these workers are simply taking care of a family member or loved one, and have no connection to government employment.
This stealth unionization effort:
- Allows SEIU or another union to organize Direct Care Workers.
- Allows SEIU or another union to become the exclusive representative (monopoly) of home health care workers as the “Direct Care Worker Representative”
- This election could be held with only 10 percent of home care workers signing up, far lower than the 30 percent threshold in the current labor law.
- Moreover, the election of this exclusive representative would be conducted by the American Arbitration Association, not the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board which is the standard in all other cases.
- Allows the Secretary of Human Services to negotiate with the “Direct Care Worker Representative” over compensation, procedures and voluntary payroll deductions.
- The state would provide a list of all Direct Care Workers with their names and home addresses to help SEIU organize.
This executive order mirrors one attempted by Gov. Rendell in 2010. It was challenged in court by a coalition including the Pennsylvania Homecare Association and R.E.A.L. Home and Community-Based Services. After the Commonwealth Court issued an injunction, Gov. Rendell rescinded the order.
At the time, several care providers spoke out against the unilateral action:
“The Executive Order causes this one-on-one relationship to drastically change because a third party – a union – is being forced into it. This prevents me and other people with disabilities from fully taking control of our own lives”—Keith Williams, Community Organizer for the Northeast Pennsylvania Center for Independent Living (NEPA CIL) in Scranton
“We are very concerned that the names and addresses of consumer employers and their homecare attendants will be provided by the Commonwealth to unions for the purpose of recruiting membership.”—William Kepner, Vice-President of the Pennsylvania Providers Coalition Association.
Similar efforts to quietly unionize home health care workers took place in Michigan and Illinois.
In Michigan, Robert and Patricia Haynes care for their adult children—Melissa, 34, and Kevin, 30—who suffer from hypertonic cerebral palsy. The Haynes family noticed some of the Medicaid dollars for their kids’ care was being diverted to the coffers of the Service Employee International Union. The Haynes claimed they never voted to join a union. In fact, 80 percent of Michigan home health care workers did not vote in the election for union representation.
Over in Illinois, Pam Harris was disturbed by efforts to divert dollars from her son’s care. Joshua has a rare genetic syndrome that causes severe intellectual and developmental disabilities. One Sunday morning in 2009 union representatives showed up unannounced at her home and asked her to join the SEIU. She declined, she wanted her checks to support Joshua’s care, not the union’s agenda.
Like the Haynes family and Pam Harris, many Pennsylvania families could soon see tax dollars skimmed from their needy family members to fund political candidates and election activity. Last election cycle, SEIU gave Tom Wolf nearly $1 million.