Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Wolf Camp Disputes Assertion of Labor 'Ambush'

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Wolf Camp Disputes Assertion of Labor 'Ambush'

Article excerpt

Republicans and union foes say the representation ballot being circulated to Pennsylvania's independent home-care workers looks a lot like an organizing "ambush" on the part of labor.

But Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf says that's not so.

"It's not a union ballot," said Jeff Sheridan, spokesman for Mr. Wolf. "It's just not. They're wrong."

A copy of the ballot, which was circulated to reporters on Tuesday, says it is meant "to determine representation for Pennsylvania participant-directed home-care workers."

"It's disturbing that the Wolf administration is publicly denying that [this] has anything to do with unions, while at the same time working behind the scenes to provide SEIU and AFSCME with a list of names and addresses of home-care workers, enabling this union ambush election," said Nathan Benefield, vice president of policy analysis for the Commonwealth Foundation, a conservative Harrisburg think tank.

But representation is not the same as unionization, and that's an important distinction, because the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Act appears to forbid home-care "domestic" workers from organizing.

Home-care workers often bathe, feed and dress seniors and the disabled, providing companionship and limited medical care. Many work for agencies, but tens of thousands of them in Pennsylvania are essentially independent contractors, caring for friends or kin and getting paid by Medicaid to do so.

It's those independent workers who were the subject of a Feb. 27 executive order from Mr. Wolf, which created the Advisory Group on Participant-Directed Home Care and, more controversially, set up a process by which those home-care workers could elect a representative to discuss working conditions with state leaders. Opponents of the measure sued the Wolf administration in Commonwealth Court last week.

Legal experts say there is a distinction between voting for union representation and being a union member: Being a member generally means that one would pay dues, be permitted to vote for union officials, and otherwise have a say in union business. Union representation also does not necessarily confer certified collective bargaining rights. …

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