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May
2015
27

Home Health Care Workers Lose Right to Bargain Collective in OH

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Ohio Governor John Kasich last week rescinded the rights of in-home health care workers to collectively bargain, reversing the course set by his predecessor, Ted Strickland, in 2007.  Kasich used executive authority in issuing an EO that turned the employees into independent contractors, arguing that Obamacare made Strickland’s moves moot.  From the EO:

“Allowing these independent contractors to collectively bargain also gave them access to any health-care insurance their chosen unions provided to their members as a benefit of membership.
… Since that time, health-care insurance has become widely available through other measures, such as the federal health insurance exchanges and Medicaid.”

The change follows approval of a new contract with the Ohio Civil Services Employees Union, which includes 2.5 percent raises in each of the next three years.  The affected workers, along with other state employees, are currently negotiating a new deal.  Kasich originally promised to make this change while on the campaign trail in 2010 but had been conciliatory following SB 5’s defeat via public referendum in 2011.

In a statement following the EO, Kasich spokesperson Rob Nichols told The Associated Press:

“The governor has never supported these arrangements, but allowed them to continue on the grounds that contractors might be able to get health care from their unions if they needed it.  With health care insurance more widely available, that reason is removed — one of the unions even dropped their health care coverage — so it didn’t make sense to continue.”

Ted Strickland is re-emerging on the Ohio political scene and planning a run for U.S. Senate in 2016. Kasich is a possible candidate for his party’s presidential nomination.  In response to the EO, Strickland said:

“These are the people who care for our children, our parents and grandparents, and disabled members of our communities.  Denying them a voice is not only wrong, it’s dangerous to the people who depend on their care. Voters of Ohio came together in 2011 and made clear they will not tolerate attacks on our workers, and ignoring the will of the people is unacceptable.”

Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper vaguely rebuked the decision:

“It’s a sad day when those who care for our children, our seniors and Ohioans with disabilities – and who simply want to be able to make ends meet while providing that invaluable service – become the target of a cynical political attack.”

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) District 1199 President Becky Williams said she was “appalled by the action,” adding:

“By stripping collective bargaining rights from home care and childcare workers, Kasich is effectively attempting to silence thousands of low-wage workers, women and people of color from their ability to advocate for their clients and preserve quality care and services to the children, seniors and people with disabilities in our communities.”

The current contract for in-home health care workers is set to expire on June 30th.  The original EO signed by then Governor Strickland affected nearly 7,000 workers in Ohio.  The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) said that Gov. Kasich’s EO will affect 2,700 health workers.  

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