Court throws out bar­gain­ing rights for home care work­ers

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS - By Mark Scol­foro

Parts of a pro­gram es­tab­lished by Gov. Tom Wolf im­prop­erly granted union rights to home care work­ers who look af­ter el­derly and dis­abled peo­ple, judges at a Penn­syl­va­nia court said on Thursday.

Com­mon­wealth Court ruled 4-to-1 in fa­vor of the plain­tiffs who chal­lenged an ex­ec­u­tive or­der Wolf is­sued in Fe­bru­ary 2015, shortly af­ter he took of­fice, call­ing it a form of leg­is­la­tion and an “in­valid ex­er­cise of ex­ec­u­tive author­ity.”

“At its core, the ex­ec­u­tive or­der in­vades the re­la­tion­ship be­tween a (di­rect care worker) and the em­ployer par­tic­i­pant who re­ceives per­sonal ser­vices in his or her home,” wrote Judge Robert Simpson for the ma­jor­ity.

At­tor­ney James J. Kutz, who rep­re­sents the plain­tiffs, said a large per­cent­age of the roughly 20,000 per­sonal care em­ploy­ees cov­ered by the pol­icy are peo­ple work­ing for rel­a­tives in their homes.

His clients are a woman and her daugh­ter who cares for her, an­other in­di­vid­ual who re­ceives home care, the Penn­syl­va­nia Home­care As­so­ci­a­tion and United Cere­bral Palsy of Penn­syl­va­nia.

“They wanted to be left alone — they don’t want a union,” Kutz said. “It’s pre­cisely the re­sult we were look­ing for. Could not be more pleased with the end re­sult.”

Wolf’s of­fice said the Demo­cratic gov­er­nor was dis­ap­pointed and was re­view­ing the de­ci­sion to de­ter­mine his next step.

The ex­ec­u­tive or­der pro­vided a way for a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of di­rect care work­ers to meet with Wolf’s hu­man ser­vices sec­re­tary to dis­cuss is­sues of con­cern, and gave that rep­re­sen­ta­tive con­tact in­for­ma­tion for di­rect care work­ers around the state. The United Home Care Work­ers of Penn­syl­va­nia was elected to be their rep­re­sen­ta­tive.

Penn­syl­va­nia law, Simpson wrote, ex­pressly ex­cludes di­rect care work­ers from col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing.

“The clear pol­icy de­ci­sion of the Gen­eral Assem­bly was to pre­clude the reach of col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing to do­mes­tic ser­vice ren­dered to a per­son in his or her home,” Simpson wrote. “This pol­icy choice, which is con­sis­tent with the long­stand­ing ‘home as cas­tle’ trope in law and cus­tom, is bind­ing. It can­not be al­tered by ex­ec­u­tive or­der.”

Kutz said di­rect care work­ers typ­i­cally earn $10$14 an hour, and many ob­jected to union­iza­tion that would re­quire them to pay dues.

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