The battle over public unions and whether they can compel employees to pay monthly fees, and even whether they can opt out of the union altogether (while still benefitting from increased wages and benefits negotiated with the state by the unions) is a topic that’s running rampant in this country. There are numerous men and women considered public workers and within the home care field, the vast majority of those taking care of disabled or elderly adults at home are family members.
By receiving money for the work they do taking care of an aging parent, disabled adult child, or other loved one, these individuals are subsequently considered to be ‘public employees.’ Some advocates decry the low wages these individuals receive and the long hours they devote to caring for a family member.
According to Michael Hiltzik, writing for the Los Angeles Times in the opinion blog, Targeting home healthcare workers, the Trump administration opens another front in its war on public employees:
“Home healthcare workers earn an average of about $11 an hour, barely higher than minimum wage, paid mostly through Medicaid. They’re engaged in backbreaking work with few benefits and unpredictable hours. Years ago, most such workers were family members like Rachelle Lewis caring for close relatives. But with the aging of the U.S. population, today the vast majority of these workers are employees on contract with public or private agencies.
“Homecare is an occupation—and one that is expanding rapidly,” a group of home healthcare experts told the Supreme Court in a friend-of-the-court brief last year. About 2.5 million people are engaged in the field now, they said, and it’s likely to double over the next decade.”
There are certainly some individuals who take care of elderly and disabled adults who are not family and who receive Medicaid reimbursements, yet the majority are family. Being forced to join a public union and pay membership fees merely because an individual chooses to stay home and care for a loved one (which not only improves quality of life and support in many cases but also saves the state money compared to nursing home costs) has been deemed to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in its most recent ruling.
Unfortunately, op-ed hit pieces disguised as journalism, as in the example above, create more confusion and misguidance among the general public about the impact of unions within the home care industry. Reaching the aging population, family caregivers, and others with facts serves a better purpose and will help to ingratiate these professional aides and agencies to them, building bridges that help people understand the benefits professional home care truly does offer.