Sunday, October 28, 2012

Ballot Proposal Mayhem Part IV: Home Is Where The Unionized In-Home Care Worker Is

So I didn't post yesterday.  It's hard when you have a sick little guy who wants to snuggle and you have a house to clean and then the Tigers were on at the same time as the Wolverines.  So yeah, it didn't get done, but today I'll do two to make up for it! Here are the links to my posts on Proposal 12-1, 12-2, and 12-3

Today we're moving on to Proposal 12-4:

This proposal would:
  • Allow in-home care workers to bargain collectively with the Michigan Quality Home Care Council (MQHCC).  Continue the current exclusive representative of in-home care workers until modified in accordance with labor laws. 
  • Require MQHCC to provide training for in-home care workers, create a registry of workers who pass background checks, and provide financial services to patients to manage the cost of in-home care. 
  • Preserve patients' rights to hire in-home care workers who are not referred from the MQHCC registry who are bargaining unit members. 
  • Authorize the MQHCC to set minimum compensation standards and terms and conditions of employment.
Should this proposal be approved?

First I just want to say that this post is a little bit longer (and a little bit more boring) because I think there is some pertinent background information that people need to know before making a decision about this proposal.

For the purpose of this post the term helper and in-home care worker mean the same thing and reflect both workers who are family/friends of the person needing assistance or workers chosen from the registry available to those needing assistance.

So to get started let me give you the basics and some background information.  There is a  program called the Adult Home Help program that is available for people who qualify for Medicaid and are either elderly or disabled.  This is a good program in that it allows these people who need assistance to stay in their homes rather than go to a nursing home.  This is also nice for taxpayers because it costs less for The Department of Community Health (who funds the program) to pay for the home helper than nursing home care.  Another good thing about this program is that it lets the person needing the assistance decide who their helper will be.  The helper can be a friend or relative.  At this time there is also the Michigan Quality Community Care Council (MQC3), which was created through the legislative process, which is a sort of governing board that has a state-wide registry of available home care workers (the helper) that the person in need of assistance can choose from.

If this proposal is approved a new council, called the Michigan Quality Home Care Council (to be called New Council from here on out), would be created.  The New Council would replace MQC3 and would be designated as the public employer of all in-home care workers (the helpers).  The proposal would also require the New Council to create a state-wide registry (which already exists) and would give all in-home care workers (the helpers) collective bargaining rights (hence the Proposal title :-))

The Public Employment Relations Act of 1947 (PERA) gives public employees the right to form unions and details issues concerning collective bargaining.  Under this act  the MQC3 held an "election" in 2005 where they polled the in-home care workers (helpers) to see if they wanted to unionize.  43,000 ballots were sent out with 8,545 being returned.  The result was 81% "yes" (6,949), 12% "no" (1,007), and 7% "spoiled ballots" (589).  This granted the MQC3 and the Department of Community Health (who funds the program) the right to take union dues from the paychecks of in-home care workers despite the fact that they may have voted "no" or not voted at all.  The union created from this is called Local 79.

There is concern however that these results do not represent the feelings of the majority as a) of the 43,000 ballots sent out only 20% were returned which is a very low return rate on which to base a significant change and b) many in-home care workers (helpers) said they never received their ballot/poll and would have voted no.   Because of this, earlier this year Public Act 76 was enacted.  This Act (PA 76) amends the Public Employment Relations Act of 1947 that I mentioned in the previous paragraph by saying (now I'm paraphrasing here...)  just because the pay you receive through a private organization/employer contains a subsidy from the government doesn't mean you are a government/public employee.  This meant that the Department of Community Health (DCH), who pays the helpers, cannot take union dues from their wages.

After PA 76 was signed into law the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), who represents the collective bargaining interests of the in-home care workers, filed and was granted a preliminary injunction.  This means that though the legislature enacted PA 76 the SEIU and Department of Community Health can continue to collect dues and give them to the SEUI until the courts decide the matter in full. Attorney General Schuette has appealed the injunction but nothing has been decided yet.

So now that we're done with the history section lets move on.  A recent survey showed that approximately 44% of in-home care workers are related to the people they care for.  Another 20% were either neighbors or friends of the person they were caring for.  In 2010-2011 roughly 57,000 people received in-home care worker services at a cost of $291.7 million.  The formation of the union and collective bargaining unit created wage increases between 5% and 36% depending on what county the services were provided in.  However this was somewhat offset by the 2.75% union dues taken out before taxes.  The SEIU is expected to collect $8 million in union dues this year.

People who support this proposal say that it is necessary to pass it because it would create a registry of in-home care workers for people needing care to choose from.  As was previously mentioned in this post there is already a registry maintained by MQC3.  It could probably use a few improvements but it is already in place. They also argue that by unionizing wages will be increased and will encourage greater involvement by family members as in-care workers and workers that have more skills.

People who do not support this proposal say that union dues would be burdensome to friends and family members who a) aren't getting paid that much anyway and b) are just trying to help out their family.   Furthermore the if the wages are increased significantly by the union the burden on the state to pay for this program becomes larger.  Lastly a survey of family and friends who are in-home care workers supports the fact that many of them do not support forced unionization.

And finally, there is the Constitution issue (again).  Putting a protection like this into the Constitution would make it extremely difficult to change were conditions in the state to switch directions  It also does not fit into the 3 categories that make up the purpose of the Constitution as mentioned in my post about Proposal 12-2.  It could also set a precedent for workers who contract services with the State of Michigan.

A note to think about: a YES or NO outcome of this vote on November 6 will not affect the operation of the Adult Home Help program.  The program will still exist and function regardless of the vote.

In my opinion people should not be forced to unionize which is what would happen if this proposal passes and it should not be part of the Constitution.  The SEIU should lobby the legislature as this is a special interest.

So once again we have a proposal that's a little tricky to understand because at a glance it looks like a great idea.  

My Opinion on Proposal 12-4: Vote NO

And because you persevered to the end I'll reward you with another picture of my little guy!

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