Home Care Workers and 40 Years of Union Meddling

Posted by Olivia Grady on Wednesday, August 30th, 2017 at 4:20 pm - Permalink

Eleven states have already passed laws allowing unions to unionize home healthcare workers.


Home healthcare workers are individuals, usually family members, who take care of people with disabilities and other serious health problems. In some states, the workers receive a small Medicaid payment in exchange for their services so that those in need can live in their own homes, instead of in government-run facilities.

Unfortunately, unions have seen these state programs as an opportunity to unionize these workers and automatically deduct dues from their payments.

In the mid-1980s, predecessors to the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) started organizing these home care providers in Illinois and Los Angeles.

The unions’ first win was in 1992 when the California legislature passed Senate Bill 485, which allowed California counties to establish public authorities to run the California In-Home Supportive Services program. In 1993, Senate Bill 35 provided funding for these authorities, and the SEIU unionized these homecare workers in seven counties until 1999. The California legislature in 1999 passed AB 1682 requiring the rest of the counties to establish public authorities. Only 6 counties today aren’t members.

In Oregon, citizens actually voted for collective bargaining for home care workers in 2000 through Measure 99. The measure amended Section 11 of Article XV of the Oregon Constitution and now reads:

 (f) For purposes of collective bargaining, the Commission shall be the employer of record of home care workers hired directly by the client and paid by the State, or by a county or other public agency which receives money for that purpose from the State. Home care workers have the right to form, join and participate in the activities of labor organizations of their own choosing for the purpose of representation and collective bargaining with the Commission on matters concerning employment relations. These rights shall be exercised in accordance with the rights granted to public employees with mediation and interest arbitration as the method of concluding the collective bargaining process. Home care workers shall not have the right to strike.

Oregon Revised Statutes § 410.595-.625 implement this Constitutional amendment.

A year later in Washington, voters passed Initiative 775, and RCW 74.39A.030, -.095, -.220–.300 and RCW 41.56.026 codified it. In 2002, the homecare workers were unionized by the SEIU.

On March 4, 2003, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich (D) signed Executive Order 8, allowing the state to recognize an exclusive representative of homecare workers. Later, the legislature passed a law, 20 ILCS § 2405/3, explaining that these workers are government employees solely for collective bargaining purposes.

Finally, in 2006, the Massachusetts legislature passed a law, which was codified in Chapter 118E, sections 70-75 of the Massachusetts General Law.

Section 73 says:

(b) Personal care attendants shall be considered public employees, as defined by and solely for the purposes of, chapter 150E and section 17J of chapter 180. Said chapter 150E shall apply to personal care attendants except to the extent that chapter 150E is inconsistent with this section, in which case this section shall control. In addition, personal care attendants shall be treated as state employees solely for the purposes of sections 17A and 17G of chapter 180. 

There are also 6 other states that passed laws recently on collective bargaining for home care workers: Missouri, Maryland, Connecticut, Vermont, Minnesota and Pennsylvania.

In Missouri, voters passed Proposition B in 2008, and it was codified in Missouri Revised Statutes § 208.856 - .865. The SEIU became the representative of these home healthcare workers in 2012 after the elections in 2009 and 2010 were challenged.

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley signed Executive Order 01.01.2007.15 into law on August 6, 2007, allowing AFSCME to unionize Maryland home care providers. Maryland Health-Gen. Code § 15-901 – 907 was later enacted in 2011.

Similarly, Dannel Malloy, the Governor of Connecticut, signed Executive Order 10 in 2011, and the legislature passed Public Act 12-33, which is codified in Connecticut General Statutes § 17b-706 et seq.

The Vermont legislature passed Act 48 in 2013, which added 21 Vermont Statute Annotated §§ 1631-44.

In 2013, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton signed S.F. 778 into law, which declared homecare workers “government employees,” but only for collective bargaining purposes.

Later, an “election” was held where only about 3,500 homecare workers voted for the SEIU, unionizing 27,000. Now the SEIU is collecting 3 percent from union members (from those who wanted to join the union and maybe from some who didn’t). 

Finally, on February 27, 2015, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf issued Executive Order 2015-05, Participant-Directed Home Care Services, which allowed the SEIU and AFSCME to unionize these workers.

However, on October 14, 2016, Judge Robert Simpson wrote an opinion in Smith v. Wolf for the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania and ruled that parts of the Executive Order are invalid because Governor Wolf exceeded his authority. The Executive Order has been enjoined, and the case has been appealed to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania.

Historically, unionized government workers are employees who all work for one part of the government. They are not loved ones receiving government help in order to take care of a sick individual.

As one Minnesota caregiver, Kris Greene, correctly said:

A few years ago, the Minnesota Legislature passed a law declaring me and other PCAs “public employees.” The reasoning, I suppose, is that we receive some public support and that, therefore, we work for the state. That’s ridiculous, of course. I work for my daughter, not the state of Minnesota.