September 26, 2016
In a four-to-one decision released on September 22, the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court overturned an executive order by Gov. Tom Wolf (D) granting union representation to home care workers. The executive order allowed Medicaid-funded, participant-directed home care workers representation by an outside organization, which would meet with administration officials to discuss home care workforce-related issues.
The Pennsylvania Homecare Association, an industry group, and United Cerebral Palsy of Pennsylvania, a disability rights organization, filed a lawsuit challenging the order shortly after its release.
Consumers, workers, and other disability rights advocates submitted amicus briefs in opposition to the lawsuit, calling it “’frivolous,’ ‘costly’ and ‘harmful.’” In a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette op-ed, labor expert Moshe Z. Marvit of the Century Foundation wrote, “Contrary to claims made in the lawsuit and by anti-union groups, the governor’s order does not grant these workers the right to form a union.”
However, the court determined the order did violate the state’s Labor Relations Act, which exempts home care workers from collective bargaining rights. “The clear policy decision of the General Assembly was to preclude the reach of collective bargaining to domestic service rendered to a person in his or her home,” wrote Judge Robert Simpson (R) for the majority. “This policy choice… cannot be altered by executive order.”
In April 2015, 89 percent of workers voted to be represented by the United Home Care Workers of Pennsylvania (UHWP), a joint partnership of Service Employees International Union and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. The UHWP represents around 20,000 workers under the order.
For more information on the direct-care workforce in Pennsylvania, visit the PHI State Data Center.
--by Stephen Campbell