Home Care Workers the Latest Group in Trump Team’s Crosshairs

Via: The Hill

The Trump administration continues its attack on workers and unions: Its latest volley is a Department of Health and Human Services proposal, announced on Thursday, that would impose a difficult and time-consuming burden on these workers’ exercise of their bargaining rights.

The administration proposes to forbid certain home care workers whose services are funded by Medicaid from choosing to pay their union dues directly from their paychecks, as hundreds of thousands are doing now.

Like the recent Supreme Court decision in Janus v. AFSCME, this latest assault on unionized public-sector workers has a single goal: to silence workers’ voices.

Like the Janus case, this attack bears the fingerprints of several highly partisan, union-busting think tanks that are cited in the rule, including the State Policy Network (SPN) and the so-called Fairness Center, a right-wing litigation center associated with SPN.

Make no mistake, this Trump administration proposal will have distinctly racial and gendered impacts. Home care workers are disproportionately people of color, and 90 percent are women. They provide hands-on care to people in their homes, allowing them to remain a part of their families and communities.

These caregivers prepare meals, monitor health and assist with bathing, clothing and bathroom needs. They may accompany someone to work or provide transportation to an appointment.

Their work is essential, yet, nationally, they make little more than $10 an hour. Most don’t have benefits or paid time off. They often struggle with inconsistent schedules and irregular pay. The home care workers who fare best are those who have come together to form a union.

Our research found that when these workers form unions, both workers and consumers see positive results, including improved training opportunities, lowered turnover and higher pay.

Our survey results found the following:

  • Union workers were paid around $2 per hour more than non-union workers;
  • 61 percent of union workers had health insurance, compared to 28 percent for non-union workers; and
  • Union respondents were substantially more likely to be able to take a sick day, with 55 percent of workers receiving paid time off, compared to 28 percent for non-union respondents.

We are facing challenging times, with a rapidly growing elder population fueling the need for the services that home care workers provide. With 10,000 adults turning 65 every day, we must bolster the quality of these jobs, not lower pay and worsen working conditions.

Workers who have formed unions have made our home care systems stronger and won improvements for workers and consumers alike. Corporate special interests, intent on shrinking union membership and taking away worker power, seek to shatter the progress made by organized workers in recent years.

Nationwide, the public sector is the largest employer of African-American workers. African-Americans working in the public sector had higher median wages than those working in other sectors. African-American and Latino union members earn 14.7 percent and 21.8 percent more, respectively, than their non-union counterparts.

Women represented by unions see a 9.2-percent increase in hourly wages, on average, compared with non-unionized women. Unions have helped mitigate both the gender pay gap and the impact of structural racism.

Home care workers who chose to form a union did so to fight collectively for more home care funding, access to training, increased wages, improved working conditions and improved services for older adults and people with disabilities.

The role that home care unions play in coordinating workers, providing resources and convening stakeholders is invaluable to states. There is no evidence that workers, consumers or states asked for this proposed change.

The administration’s proposed rule is an affront to workers who have spent years organizing to improve their jobs and an attack on their right to support a union. It is appalling and deliberate.

The Trump administration’s effort shows an eagerness to fracture our home care system, decimate our public-sector workforces and disproportionately hurt working people of color. It may be illegal, too.

We must hold the administration accountable, and workers across the country must continue to fight these corporate special interests to defend their freedom to form a union, secure quality jobs and promote a home care system that works for us all.

Caitlin Connolly is director of the social insurance program at the National Employment Law Project, an organization that advocates on behalf of low-wage workers. 


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