Home Care Workers Forced Into Union Election

Member Group : Commonwealth Foundation

For Immediate Release

Commonwealth Foundation

Contact: Cindy Hamill
(856) 607-4208

Ambush Election Confirms Wolf’s Deceptive Homecare Order is Union Gift
SEIU & AFSCME Rush Union Vote After Lawsuits Expose Scheme

April 14, 2015, HARRISBURG, Pa.—Two lawsuits filed in Commonwealth Court last week say Gov. Wolf’s February executive order is an illegal attempt to unionize thousands of Pennsylvania homecare workers. But both the governor and his spokesman have consistently denied it does any such thing. Now, secret union ballots sent to homecare workers for a union ambush election show those claims to be deceptive.

The Fairness Center, which sued to halt the executive order along with the Pennsylvania Homecare Association last Monday, obtained this union secret ballot delivered to Pennsylvania homecare attendants. It must be returned by April 23.

The ballot is for a final union election which would unionize tens of thousands of homecare workers under the United Home Care Workers of Pennsylvania—a "joint effort" of the Service Employees International Union and the American Federation of State County, and Municipal Employees.

Yet last week, Wolf spokesman Jeff Sheridan told WITF that the order "doesn’t allow [homecare workers] to organize." When asked about the lawsuits during a Wednesday East Liberty visit, Wolf himself said, "I’m not forcing anyone to join a union, nor am I granting collective bargaining rights or making anyone a state employee," according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

"The fact that SEIU and AFSCME are organizing for their union right now directly contradicts these statements," commented Nathan Benefield, vice president of policy analysis for the Commonwealth Foundation. "People like Don Lambrecht—who has cared for his friend and employer David Smith day and night for the past 25 years—are being cajoled to vote for the union."

Indeed, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s editorial board called Wolf’s order "an example of politics at its worst," and pointed to the SEIU’s substantial donations to Wolf’s gubernatorial campaign as his likely motivation.

The Wolf administration’s cozy relationship with the SEIU is being revealed elsewhere today. The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review is reporting that Wolf’s chief of staff advised the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center to "let the SEIU unilaterally organize" their workers. A UPMC spokesman called Wolf’s approach "straight of out SEIU’s playbook."

"A pattern of union favors is developing in the Wolf administration that should give Pennsylvanians pause," commented Benefield. "Wolf accepted nearly $1 million in campaign contributions from the SEIU and employs a former executive director of the SEIU Pennsylvania State Council as a special assistant. Those contributions seem to be paying a dividend for union leaders."

Even before SEIU and AFSCME’s ballots were sent, it was clear that the order’s purpose was to unionize workers. Wolf’s order states:
"An employee organization that has as one of its primary purposes the representation of direct care workers in their relations with the Commonwealth or other public entities may petition the Secretary to represent a particular unit of Direct Care Workers."

"The truth is ’employee organization’ is simply a legal term for a union," Benefield responded. "The order specifically allows the union to seek to represent, meaning organize, direct care workers. Wolf’s order even offers to provide a list of workers’ home addresses to help the union organize."

"The order also creates a monopoly union representative for all home health care workers—whether or not they choose to be members," Benefield continued. "It carefully avoids using the terms ‘union’ or ‘collective bargaining’ but the effect is no different. That this game of semantics is being played by a governor who publicly touts his commitment to openness and transparency makes it all the more perplexing."

Moreover, Wolf is arbitrarily changing the rules to make unionization as easy as possible. Benefield concluded:

"Wolf has thrown out the typical election waiting period, allowing this ambush election to take place with no notice or prior input by the tens of thousands of workers who will be affected.

"The union could actually win the election with just a majority of those who return ballots. Even if just 20 percent of homecare workers cast a ballot, SEIU and AFSCME would become the monopoly representative for 100 percent of homecare workers and could begin collecting union dues and campaign contributions right out of Medicaid payments.

"A similar tactic occurred in Michigan where 80 percent of homecare workers did not vote in the union election but were forced to accept union representation.

"It’s disgraceful that these deceptive tactics are being used against those who serve some of the most vulnerable Pennsylvanians. It’s a shame that it’s being done by a man who claims to be a ‘different kind of governor’."
Nathan Benefield is available for comment. Please contact Cindy Hamill at (856) 607-4208 to schedule an interview.

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For more information, please contact Cindy Hamill, director of strategic communications for the Commonwealth Foundation at (856) 607-4208 or [email protected].
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