As some unions in the United States, such as the SEIU (Service Employees International Union) have been losing memberships in recent years, they have turned to other outlets in an effort to shore up those losses. One area the SEIU has focused on recently is within the home health care industry. Through concerted efforts and (according to some sources) questionable tactics, the SEIU has managed to have home health care workers represented by them, though not everyone was pleased.
Many of the men and women who are considered ‘home care’ providers are family members, such as parents looking after their disabled adult child. Through many states’ Medicaid programs, these caregivers are reimbursed for their efforts and have been considered by some to be state ‘employees.’
The SEIU has managed to secure membership dues from some of these caregivers by ‘representing’ them, though a lawsuit (Harry v. Quinn) resulted in these home care providers having the right to withdraw from union representation and thus no longer having to pay membership dues (though they can still benefit from collective bargaining agreements). Only 11 states currently classify these people as government employees, but the push to add more to the union rolls continues.
With that effort comes some more (as certain advocates for these caregivers called it) underhanded tactics by the union. For example, in Oregon, family members as caregivers have only two weeks throughout the year to withdraw from union membership and few are even aware of that.
Fox News reported in its article, Former Carl’s Jr. CEO: We can’t let unions hold Medicaid funding for home health care hostage, written by Andy Puzder:
“The state-run program paid for by Medicaid to fund home health-care is a win-win for patients, their families and the taxpayer. The program keeps patients at home, where they are more comfortable and surrounded by loved ones, rather than putting them in nursing homes or other expensive institutions that would cost Medicaid far more.
But unfortunately, some states are diverting millions of these Medicaid dollars from home health-care to labor unions.”
The union isn’t just targeting the men and women who remain home to take care of elderly or disabled family members; they are also pursuing home care aides and visiting nurses working both independently and for agencies. A major platform upon which they run is low wages and benefits. It’s appealing to many of these caregivers to earn more and have an advocate, but as Ben Olsen discovered when he was a staunch supporter of the SEIU and attended one of their lobbying efforts (Ben and his wife were caring for their son with cerebral palsy): ‘He discovered that the union’s agenda did not have much to do with regard to the issues he and his wife actually faced as caregivers.’
The SEIU will continue to push for more membership rolls and subsequently ‘dues,’ and within the home care sector that may not translate into improvements for the people who do this work.
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