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Labor & Worker Rights Tue Jul 07 2009

Collective Bargaining Rights for Home Care Workers

Those who follow the labor movement in Illinois probably know of the bad blood that was engendered between two of the state's largest public sector unions, SEIU and AFSCME, when former Governor Rod Blagojevich signed executive orders giving collective bargaining rights to home health care workers (2003) and child care workers (2005). In both cases the unions competed to organize the workers, resulting in intense and often times ugly confrontations. Journalist David Moberg covered the latter fight, which coincided with the big 2005 AFL-CIO split:

Out on the streets of Chicago, organizers from the two sides--boosted with staff from outside the state--became increasingly confrontational, and tires of AFSCME organizers were even slashed. SEIU, which had nearly 500 organizers of its own from around the country, brought in nearly 200 organizers for a weekend from several of its allies in the contest within the AFL-CIO--UNITE HERE, Teamsters, Laborers and United Food and Commercial Workers.

Governor Quinn has recently signed a similar executive order for another sector of home health care workers, as reported by the Chitown Daily News:

Independent workers who help mentally disabled adults live at home may unionize under an executive order signed by Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn.

The order may help existing freelance home-care workers -- and new ones who could be laid off in a state budget crunch -- negotiate higher wages. It could also set the stage for a battle over new members among competing unions.

It would cover workers employed under the Illinois Home-Based Support Services Law for the Mentally Disabled, which helps state residents pay for care.

Collective bargaining for these categories of workers are great because they lead to standardization, regulation, and decrease high turnover and burnout rates. Given the burning need to organize these workers and the mutual desire of all elements of the labor movement to ensure higher standards of pay and conditions for workers who provide services like these, I am hopeful that there is already a plan in place to organize these workers.

Disclosure notice: I worked for SEIU in Illinois between 2003 and 2005 and AFSCME between 2005 and 2007

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Good Luck / July 7, 2009 6:37 PM

How exactly would you ensure higher standards of conditions for people working at the homes of people with mental disabilities? Fine the beneficiaries if they didn't meet union standards?

If they are in danger of being laid-off in a budget crunch, what value is helping them negotiate a higher wage? That just decreases demand for their services.

Do you think about this stuff or is it on autopilot?

Also, I thought you said that union organizers were not prone to intimidation and could be trusted with card check. Now you tell me that they slash tires!

Ramsin / July 7, 2009 6:45 PM

Anecdotes are meaningless, and if you want to have a "use of coercive force on workers" competition between union organizers and their employers, I will gladly engage not only in an anecdote-off, but a statistics-off with you. By your reasoning, employers shouldn't be allowed within a mile of their employees.

The home health care workers save the state money, because they decrease catastrophic emergency room visits and also keep people from going to housing facilities. While they would likely negotiate for a higher rate, the biggest issue for this class of workers is typically timely payment, standardizing collection of co-pays, access to "in-services" and trainings, etc.; these are things that "standardize" or introduce standards into the workforce, and keep people in the profession (limit turnover), improving performance over the long term. All things that save the state money, so that the incremental increases in wages are more than offset.

Do you think about this stuff, or are you on anti-union autopilot? You don't need to answer that; I get the Human Events newsletter too.

Richard Lorenc / July 18, 2009 10:41 AM

Let's next engage on a discussion of the public employee pensions that have bankrupted our state and take a far-front seat to the social services members of these various unions provide.

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