Controversial Forced Unionization Contract Gets a Vote

April 15, 2014

Those with Disabilities Worry this will force them into Nursing Homes

Hartford, CT – State Senator Joe Markley (R-Southington) and Representative Rob Sampson (R-Wolcott) both members of the Appropriations Committee of the General Assembly considered a controversial contract between the Service Employees International Union District 1199NE and the Personal Care Attendant Workforce Council. The agreement stems from Executive Order #9 & #10 handed down several years ago by Governor Dannel Malloy.

“People who are disabled and employ personal care attendants maintain an independence that helps them thrive and contribute. They live on their own for less than the state would pay to keep them institutionalized. I see no need to change this successful arrangement, especially by adding costs which might force people into nursing homes,” said Sen. Markley.

“This is not just a power grab but also a money grab. I am fearful it will hurt those most at risk. And for what – to create another class of taxpayer funded union dues?” questioned Rep. Sampson.

The disability community is especially concerned that with the new union contract, employers with disabilities will be thrown off the Medicaid waivers and into nursing homes as any contract may push those with high-end needs over the cost caps.

Cathy Ludlum, who has lived on her own for 22 years with funding from the PCA Waiver program, fears what will happen to her and others currently living in the community.

Ludlum says, “Although we received a letter telling us that the State must maintain current service levels, there is no mention of whether the cost caps will be increased to accommodate the higher wage levels, or whether we will now be found ineligible to stay on the program as our care plans will rise above those caps.”

Currently there is a case before the US Supreme Court, Harris v. Quinn, as well as a case before the State Board of Labor Relations (SBLR) involving several PCAs covered by this tentative agreement, that may significantly alter or invalidate it. The case before the SBLR seeks to decertify SEIU as the representative of the personal care attendants.

At issue; the First Amendment rights of the workers. A worker who disagrees with the union view on political questions would still be forced to subsidize it. They would also be denied the First Amendment right to petition the government for redress of grievances in their own voices, having been forced to allow a union to petition for them.

Senator Markley agrees with those in the disability world who say the legislature should have waited to vote on this contract, “The cases before the state labor board and the US Supreme Court need to go through the process before allowing the unions to force members into handing over dues thus undermining the relationship between PCAs and employers with disabilities.”

“Controversial policy maneuvers like the forced unionization of personal care attendants are a way for labor to grow its numbers and the state of Connecticut has no business in this arena,” added Sen. Markley. “Simply put despite the fact the state is paying these workers through its Medicaid program doesn’t mean they are employees. This aggressive use of government force to create “state employees” that unions will collect dues from is wrong.”

The contract was ultimately approved by the committee. The contracts will go before the full legislature for a final vote. This year the cost to the state taxpayer is $1.6 million.