Unions Win Right to Represent Home-Care Workers

Published October 1, 2009

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) has added home-care workers for mentally disabled adults to the list of independent providers with collective bargaining rights, a move almost certain to raise costs in the midst of the state’s budget crisis.

In July, Quinn signed an executive order allowing the home-care providers to join unions and negotiate for higher pay. Taxpayers could be stuck footing the bill for new, costly union middlemen and higher wages.

The move followed previous orders from former governor Rod Blagojevich granting collective bargaining rights to home-care workers for the elderly and in-home daycare workers.

State Sets Wages

Under the new order, the independent providers remain private employees of those they care for, who will continue to set their employment conditions and contracts. But since most of the clients receive state aid for their medical costs, the state effectively will set wages through negotiations with unions representing the workers.

Independent providers of certain health care and daycare services have been granted collective bargaining rights in at least 17 states, Missouri being the most recent after in-home health-care workers voted for union bargaining rights in July.

Because most of the states have no right-to-work laws, independent providers may find themselves paying compulsory dues or fees to a union, regardless of whether the union has the bargaining power to negotiate wages high enough to offset the cost of union dues.

Rachel Culbertson ([email protected]) is a labor policy analyst at the Evergreen Freedom Foundation in Olympia, Washington.