PA Home Care Workers Vote to Unite for a Voice!

Final PA Vote Count - banner finalPennsylvania home care workers have just completed our historic vote to unite for a voice. And 89% voted YES to join together in United Home Care Workers of PA to advocate for expanding and improving services for seniors and people with disabilities!

Read our full press release about the historic vote:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday, April 24, 2015 // FOR MORE INFORMATION: Bartees Cox, 202.815.6457, Bartees.Cox@berlinrosen.com

Pennsylvania Home Care Workers Vote to Join Together for a Voice

Workers Vote in Historic Election to Choose a Representative to Advocate for Expanding and Improving Services for Seniors and People with Disabilities

HARRISBURG – Pennsylvania home care workers voted by 89 percent on Friday to elect a representative to make their voices heard to improve home care services for seniors and people with disabilities. As certified by the American Arbitration Association (AAA), a decades-old independent organization and the nation’s leader in supervising private ballot elections of this kind, home care workers voted to be represented by United Home Care Workers of Pennsylvania (UHWP), a joint partnership of SEIU and AFSCME, to meet and confer with representatives of the governor regarding issues of concern to workers and the consumers in their care. The election comes as part of Governor Wolf’s policy initiatives announced last February to improve and strengthen home care services for seniors and people with disabilities.

“I am thrilled that home care workers from across the state are joining together to create a voice for ourselves and for the consumers in our care,” said Nancy Henry, a mom and full-time home care attendant from Philadelphia. “With a say in the policies that affect us, our consumers and our families, we will be able to do our part in making the home care system work better for us and our clients. This is a tremendous step forward in improving the long-term care system for all Pennsylvanians.”

Yesterday, Commonwealth Court President Judge Dan Pellegrini issued an order denying opponents’ effort to halt today’s ballot count and clearing the way for homecare attendants to begin meeting and conferring with state officials regarding improvements for homecare workers and consumers.

“It’s time that the concerns of people receiving services are heard where the decisions are being made,” said Dolores Heath, a senior citizen living in Pittsburgh who receives services from her grandson. “I’m very thankful that my grandson has been my home care attendant for the last four years, but it hurts to see him struggling to pay for basics like his phone bill. He works hard and should be paid enough to make ends meet. With a voice for me and my grandson in Harrisburg, we know the system will be improved for consumers and attendants alike.”

BACKGROUND
Tens of thousands of Pennsylvania seniors and people with disabilities have a need for regular care, and the number is growing. Over the next 20 years, the state is expected to have more than one million more residents over age 65. At the same time, there simply are not enough home care attendants to meet the growing need for home and community-based care.

Many individuals are discouraged from becoming home care attendants because of low pay, lack of healthcare and limited, if any, training and support. Pay for home care attendants in Pennsylvania is 22 percent to 64 percent below what it costs to support a family in the state. Home care attendants in the Commonwealth were paid a median hourly wage of $10.44 in 2014, or $21,715 per year for a full-time worker. That means half of home care attendants in Pennsylvania are paid less than this amount.

On February 27th, 2015, Governor Wolf announced a comprehensive set of policy initiatives to expand access to homecare for 5,500 seniors, streamlining the process for enrolling in homecare services, and ensuring that improvements in the state’s long-term care programs are informed by the people who understand them best: seniors, people with disabilities and home care attendants.

Lobbyists opposing these common sense reforms aimed at providing a voice for consumers and attendants have deliberately distorted Governor Wolf’s executive order in an effort to maintain a status quo of low wages, high turnover and workforce shortages that undermine quality of care. Here are some important facts about Governor Wolf’s executive order:

  • The executive order does not and cannot provide home care workers with the right to engage in collective bargaining and negotiate a legally binding union contract (which would require a change in state law), and it does not and cannot require any attendants to become union members and/or pay dues or fees to a union. The order simply directs the appropriate officials overseeing state long-term care programs to meet and confer with a representative for home care attendants, if the attendants choose to elect a representative.
  • In accordance with the executive order, the election allowing direct care workers to choose whether to select a representative was conducted over the last several weeks by the American Arbitration Association. The election process was initiated when, pursuant to the executive order, enough direct care workers – more than 10 percent of this workforce – told the state that they wanted the opportunity to vote in an election for a representative.
  • The order does nothing to change the consumer-directed model of care, nor does it prevent any direct care worker or consumer, individually or in a group, from petitioning the governor or any other state official about any matter of concern.

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