Lawmakers Can Stand Up for Home Care Workers

In early 2015 Governor Wolf issued an executive order unionizing home care workers throughout Pennsylvania, many of whom care for their own relatives. The state Supreme Court recently upheld the order.

By granting a union the right to negotiate working conditions and payment, the order takes autonomy away from all parties in a homecare environment—including home care workers and the elderly and individuals with disabilities for whom they care.

At the same time, that union reaps a substantial reward: 2 percent of participating home care workers’ salaries. This money comes directly out of state healthcare or Medicaid payments to Pennsylvania’s vulnerable populations. As a result, the union could receive approximately $8 million annually from these workers.

Suddenly the relationship between a mother caring for her son or a husband for his wife becomes complicated by union bureaucracy.

Those in need of around-the-clock care share a special connection with their caretaker. This is a delicate relationship extending beyond employer and employee. There must be a high level of trust, intimacy, and mutual respect. Governor Wolf’s executive order pits these two parties against each other in collective bargaining. An external third party will now represent homecare workers; potentially putting strain on a unique relationship.

As Connie Euston, who cares for her son, writes:


This isn’t a job for us. This is caring for our son. This is necessary. That’s why we were shocked that anyone would take steps to profit from our family. But that’s exactly what happened when Gov. Tom Wolf signed an executive order enabling and encouraging a union to define the rules for our relationship with our son.

Beyond the implications for everyday life, this executive order oversteps into the legislature’s authority by creating de facto legislation. This is not how the commonwealth was designed to operate. The Pennsylvania Labor Relations Act prohibits the unionization of those who are “in the domestic service of any person in the home of such person, or any individual employed by his parent or spouse.” Governor Wolf’s order bypasses this law and the legislature. The General Assembly must take back its authority as the entity responsible for creating legislation.

Ultimately Wolf’s order harms Pennsylvania home care workers and their patients while benefitting the unions that donated to his campaign. Unions will take money and autonomy away from the individual workers, the elderly, and disable individuals. The legislature can stop this. They must take their constitutional power back from Governor Wolf and protect Pennsylvanians from this executive overreach.