Union says it will collect dues despite U.S. court ruling [Journal Inquirer]

July 3, 2014

By Mike Savino Journal Inquirer
Opponents of Connecticut’s home health care aide unionization bill called on the state Tuesday to abide by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that says Illinois aides can’t be compelled to pay union dues if they choose not to join.

Two Republican lawmakers also said aides in Connecticut shouldn’t be allowed to unionize after the Supreme Court determined those in Illinois aren’t public employees.

But supporters of the Connecticut bill maintain the ruling addresses only workers in Illinois. And the union that represents the workers here said it will move forward as planned with the contract that went into effect Tuesday.

Jennifer Schneider, spokeswoman for the Service Employees International Union 1199 New England, said the union plans to collect union dues in the next few months, per the home health aide contact.

“We’re being told that decision only affects Illinois and Illinois workers,” she said.

But Cathy Ludlum, a disabled Manchester resident, said at a news conference at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford that state officials should take steps to prevent the SEIU from collecting those dues.

She also said the ruling “vindicates” her role as employer because the Supreme Court determined aides in Illinois work for their patients, not the state.

In Connecticut, as in Illinois, home health care aides receive payment directly from patients who collect Medicaid.

“This ruling puts control and self-determination back in the hands of personal assistants, where it should be,” Ludlum said.

Sen. Joseph Markley, R-Southington, said the Supreme Court determined health aides and day-care workers are “not appropriate subjects for membership in a state employee’s union.”

The Supreme Court determined that the Illinois law declared home health care aides as public employees solely for the purpose of joining a union. But the law doesn’t allow aides to receive other benefits typically provided to other public employees.

Rep. Robert Sampson, R-Wolcott, said the ruling showed collective bargaining units made up of aides and day-care workers “are not employee unions in any sense.”

“They are unnecessary and they are mere political creations designed to benefit the union leaders and the politicians that support them,” he added.

Markley said the legislature should re-examine Connecticut’s law when it convenes next year, saying there “may be an opportunity to reconsider this decision.”

But Peter A. Tercyak, D-New Britain and co-chairman of the Labor and Public Employee Committee, said he’d make sure Connecticut’s law “meets the Supreme Court’s latest ridiculous test.”

“While they may mistakenly rule against regular people and against what’s good for our country, and against what some of us think the law should be interpreted as, they have not yet taken away the state’s ability to pass our own law and to change our law when they make it harder for good things to happen,” Tercyak said.

Illinois allowed its home health care aides to join a union in 2003, when then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich issued an executive order declaring them public employees. The Illinois legislature passed a law that year confirming the order.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat, issued similar executive orders in 2011 regarding aides and day-care workers. The Democrat-controlled legislature passed a similar measure along party lines in 2012.