PA Supreme Court Restricts Worker Freedom

Member Group : Fairness Center

Pa. Supreme Court Grants Wolf’s Wish, Allows Union to Invade Home Care System | RELEASE

The Fairness Center
Contact: Conner Drigotas, 844-293-1001, [email protected]
Pa. Supreme Court Grants Wolf’s Wish, Allows Union to Invade Home Care System
SEIU and AFSCME Given Control of 20,000 Home Care Workers;

Disabled and Elderly Stand to Hurt Most
August 21, 2018, Harrisburg, Pa.—Twenty thousand home care workers across Pennsylvania are about to have their working relationships with the disabled and elderly invaded by an unwelcome third party at Governor Tom Wolf’s behest. Today, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled in the governor’s favor in Smith v. Wolf and Markham v. Wolf, enabling a union takeover of a major sector within Pennsylvania’s home care industry.


The ruling overturns an earlier Commonwealth Court decision which invalidated Wolf’s executive order, allowing a union to exercise exclusive representation over certain home care workers. In its 2016 decision, the Commonwealth Court called Wolf’s order “de facto legislation” that violated the separation of powers and further stated that the order “invades the relationship” between a home care worker and care recipient.


But the Supreme Court vacated the Commonwealth Court’s opinion and took a different view. In a 5-2 opinion written by Justice Debra Todd, the Court held that the executive order, while completely unenforceable, nevertheless was “nevertheless a permissible exercise of gubernatorial power.”


“For the last three years, our clients Dave Smith and Don Lambrecht have beaten back Governor Wolf’s attempts to give control of their private employment arrangement to a special interest and campaign donor,” commented David Osborne, president and general counsel for the Fairness Center and attorney for Dave and Don. “Unfortunately, this decision fails to protect their working relationship and decades-long friendship from being invaded by an unwanted union.”


“Because many home care workers serve family members, this ruling unionizes parents against their disabled children, sons and daughters against their elderly parents, and, as with my clients, friends against friends.”


The Supreme Court’s ruling will force all 20,000 Pennsylvania home care workers providing direct care to the elderly and disabled to abide by work rules and restrictions mutually agreed to by the governor and a union backed by the Service Employees’ International Union (SEIU) and American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)—even if the home care workers choose not to join the union. The union is also primed to “skim” union dues from members’ Medicaid- or state-funded paychecks, which could amount to a nearly $8 million annual windfall for the SEIU-backed union. The SEIU has given more than $2 million to Wolf’s election campaigns.

Don, who for more than 27 years has provided in-home care for his friend Dave Smith, a home-bound Phoenixville resident with muscular dystrophy resulting in quadriplegia, says union interference will fundamentally alter the care he can provide.


“Dave needs 24-hour care,” said Lambrecht. “This isn’t the type of job where you clock in and clock out and take an hour for lunch.”


Dave is unsure what the future will hold, but is thankful for the help of his good friend: “Don is really like a part of my family as much as anything.”


The Supreme Court remanded the case to the Commonwealth Court, which will address a related claim that Governor Wolf’s executive order violated homecare workers’ privacy rights.


Case Timeline


  • February 2015: Gov. Wolf issues an executive order enabling the unionization of up to 20,000 home care workers. This would have enabled an SEIU-backed union to siphon millions of dollars in annual dues from home care workers.
  • April 2015: The Fairness Center’s clients Dave Smith, who is homebound with muscular dystrophy and receives in-home care, and Don Lambrecht, Dave’s home care provider, file suit in Commonwealth Court, requesting emergency relief to stop the unionization scheme. The Commonwealth Court issues a preliminary injunction preventing Wolf from further implementing the executive order.
  • October 2016: The Commonwealth Court invalidates Wolf’s order. Wolf appeals the Commonwealth Court’s ruling to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
  • November 2016: The Commonwealth Court enjoins Wolf during his appeal to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court from implementing the executive order or anything in accordance with it.
  • Early 2017: The Wolf administration and an SEIU-created nonprofit agree to a mandatory home care worker orientation program as envisioned by the executive order, funneling up to $1.25 million to the union-backed nonprofit.
  • July 2017: The Fairness Center’s clients petition the Commonwealth Court to enforce its permanent injunction and end the orientation program.
  • October 2017: The Wolf administration agrees to suspend the orientation program pending the state Supreme Court’s decision.
  • November 2017: Oral Argument held before the state Supreme Court on Wolf’s appeal of the Commonwealth Court’s October 2016 decision.
  • August 21, 2018: The Pennsylvania Supreme Court rules in Wolf’s favor, overturning the Commonwealth Court’s decision and permitting the unionization of 20,000 home care workers.




Fairness Center President David Osborne is available for comment. Contact Conner Drigotas at

844-293-1001 or [email protected] to schedule an interview.


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The Fairness Center is a nonprofit public interest law firm offering free legal services to those hurt by public employee union officials. Fairness Center attorneys provide clients with a voice in the court of law and the court of public opinion. For more information visit


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