HARRISBURG, Pa. — Parts of a program established by Gov. Tom Wolf improperly granted union rights to home care workers who look after elderly and disabled people, judges at a Pennsylvania court said on Thursday.
Commonwealth Court ruled 4-to-1 in favor of the plaintiffs who challenged an executive order Wolf issued in February 2015, shortly after he took office, calling it a form of legislation and an “invalid exercise of executive authority.”
“At its core, the executive order invades the relationship between a (direct care worker) and the employer participant who receives personal services in his or her home,” wrote Judge Robert Simpson for the majority.
Attorney James J. Kutz, who represents the plaintiffs, said a large percentage of the roughly 20,000 personal care employees covered by the policy are people working for relatives in their homes.
His clients are a woman and her daughter who cares for her, another individual who receives home care, the Pennsylvania Homecare Association and United Cerebral Palsy of Pennsylvania.
“They wanted to be left alone — they don’t want a union,” Kutz said. “It’s precisely the result we were looking for. Could not be more pleased with the end result.”
Wolf’s office said the Democratic governor was disappointed and was reviewing the decision to determine his next step.
The executive order provided a way for a representative of direct care workers to meet with Wolf’s human services secretary to discuss issues of concern, and gave that representative contact information for direct care workers around the state. The United Home Care Workers of Pennsylvania was elected to be their representative.
Pennsylvania law, Simpson wrote, expressly excludes direct care workers from collective bargaining.
“The clear policy decision of the General Assembly was to preclude the reach of collective bargaining to domestic service rendered to a person in his or her home,” Simpson wrote. “This policy choice, which is consistent with the longstanding ‘home as castle’ trope in law and custom, is binding. It cannot be altered by executive order.”
Kutz said direct care workers typically earn $10-$14 an hour, and many objected to unionization that would require them to pay dues.