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Republicans Spar with PA Gov. Wolf Over Home Care Workers’ Rights, Despite Clear Legal Reality


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A February 27th Executive Order (EO) by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf created the Advisory Group on Participant-Directed Home Care and set up a process for home care workers to elect a representative to discuss working conditions with state leaders.  Now, as the process moves forward amidst legal challenges, Pennsylvania Republicans are making the claim that a representation ballot is actually an union organizing “ambush.”

Governor Wolf does not believe this is the case. His spokesman, Jeff Sheridan, explained to The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “It’s not a union ballot. It’s just not. They’re wrong.”

The legal difference between representation and unionization is clear, but Wolf’s opponents continue to muddy the waters in an attempt to get the public on board with home care obstruction.  Nathan Benefield, Vice President of Policy Analysis for the ultra-conservative Commonwealth Foundation, told the Post-Gazette:

“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,”

Peskily, the facts are on Gov. Wolf’s side.  Representation is not unionization and home care workers are more or less unable to unionize under the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Act.  Being a member broadly means paying dues, being permitted to vote for union officials, and otherwise having a say in union business. Wolf’s actions do not allow that.

Moshe Marvit, fellow at the Century Foundation, explained to the Post-Gazette, “It’s actually a pretty important distinction and it is a distinction that has been very well developed under the law in America.”

Gov. Wolf’s concern is that these workers, who often earn less than $10 an hour, should at minimum have a some say in their own well-being.  Thomas Earle, CEO of Liberty Resources, a group that promotes independent living for seniors and those with disabilities, agrees with Wolf:

“The opponents of this initiative need to stop filing baseless lawsuits and start working together to effectively meet the growing care needs our seniors and people with disabilities deserve so they can live independently in their communities.”

Elected during last year’s midterms, Gov. Wolf was one of the few Democrats to unseat an incumbent Republican.  The GOP still controls much of the legislature, however, and has paved a rocky path in the early days of his first term.  Any issue that touches union rights or labor law with a ten-foot pole proves contentious, as Republicans gasp for the last molecules of anti-worker air the Tom Corbett administration may have left in the governor’s mansion. 


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