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Friday, October 21, 2016

Today the Weekend Reader brings you Save Our Unions: Dispatches from a Movement in Distress, by labor journalist and union representative Steve Early. Early gives a voice to union workers who are losing funding and collective bargaining rights in the name of big business and elected leaders’ political gains. The decline of unions in the U.S. is a serious issue that has fallen off the radar of mainstream media. A labor revival is vital, but what’s needed first is a fundamental understanding of how the rights of millions are being denied — and that’s precisely what Early offers in Save Our Unions.  In this excerpt, the author discusses the home health care industry and the attack on their union rights by politicians across the country.  

You can purchase the full book here.

One of the cruel ironies of America’s health care system is how poorly it covers caregivers themselves—particularly those who toil, without professional status, in hospitals, nursing homes, and home health care. More than 2.5 million people now work in this last field. Home health aides (or personal care attendants, as they are sometimes called) are mainly low-income, often non-white, female, and, in some states, foreign-born. Their contingent labor is largely invisible as well as undervalued. Even with union representation, the work pays little more than the minimum wage and lacks significant benefits. Already the second-fastest-growing occupation in the country, home health and personal care jobs are expected to double by 2018.

The good news is that homecare has been an area of explosive union growth in the last two decades, as Eileen Boris and Jennifer Klein report in their new book, Caring for America.’ The bad news is that recent union gains are being rolled back in big states like Wisconsin, Ohio, and Michigan. There, Republican governors have undone the union organizing deals made by their Democratic predecessors that created new bargaining units composed of home health aides and, in some states, child care providers also. As a result, nearly 50,000 newly organized workers have lost their precarious toehold at the bottom rung of public employment.

Prior to the wave of 2010 GOP gubernatorial victories in the Midwest, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and at least four other unions had managed to win bargaining rights for more than half a million home-based workers. Previously—and to this day in most places—home health care aides and home day care providers were unfairly classified as “independent contractors.” They had no organizational voice and, in some cases, the “nontraditional workplace” where they cared for children, the aged, or disabled was their own home.

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In return for union recognition from union-friendly Democratic governors and legislators, SEIU, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), the Communications Workers of America (CWA), and the United Auto Workers (UAW) all agreed that their new home-based worker bargaining units would not be covered by existing state worker medical or retirement plans. In labor’s latest successful campaign, 11,000 Medicaid-paid personal care attendants and state-funded day care workers gained bargaining rights in Connecticut, thanks to new Democratic Governor Dan Malloy. But they, like their counterparts elsewhere, will be negotiating health insurance quite different from the coverage enjoyed by state employees unionized for decades.

In key midwestern states, the right to bargain itself is being lost, along with some fragile first and second contract gains. In Michigan, 40,000 child care workers represented by the UAW and AFSCME won bar­gaining rights in December 2006 through an executive order. In early 2011, Republican Governor Rick Snyder cut pay by 25 percent and terminated union dues collection for more than 16,000 of these workers. In Ohio, GOP Governor John Kasich similarly rescinded contract coverage for 14,000 recently unionized child care and home care workers. Another group of 4,000 home health care aides in Wisconsin failed to win legislative approval of the $9 per hour minimum wage they negotiated in 2010. Then, as part of Governor Scott Walker’s broader attack on public employee bargaining in the state, he abolished the Quality Home Care Authority created in 2009 to facilitate personal care attendant unionization.

Multiple lawsuits have been filed by right-wing groups opposed to any expansion of public sector bargaining, particularly by executive order. Three legal challenges were mounted in Connecticut to thwart Malloy’s initiative. In Missouri, SEIU and AFSCME engineered a statewide referendum authorizing home care unionism in 2008. But, even after the two unions later won representation votes among 13,000 workers, conservative foes stalled first contract negotiations for nearly four years, until the state supreme court finally upheld SEIU-AFSCME certification. In California, Jerry Brown—a governor elected, like Malloy, with strong labor support—vetoed a bill passed by state legislators that would have allowed thousands of child care providers to unionize more easily, through a card check process. Citing fiscal constraints, Brown balked at extending bargaining rights to the same kind of workforce that is union-represented in New York, New Jersey, Oregon, and now Connecticut.

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Copyright 2014 The National Memo
  • How could anyone not expect a tremendous increase in income
    and wealth inequality after you make the tax rates paid on income such as
    dividends, capital gains and corporate profits much less than the taxes on
    wages and eliminate entirely from any taxation 99.9% of all estates from the inheritance tax.

    “..Equally unhelpful in terms of addressing the income and wealth inequality which results in the overinvestment cycle that caused the
    depression are those who emphasize various non-tax factors. Issues such a globalization, single-parent households, marriage trends, outsourcing, free trade, unionization, minimum wage laws, problems with our education system and infrastructure, regulatory policies and financial innovation can increase the income and wealth inequality. However, these are extremely minor when compared to the shift of the tax burden from the rich to the middle class. It is the compounding year after year of the effect of the shift away from taxes on capital income such as dividends over time as the rich get proverbially richer which is the prime generator of inequality…”

    • idamag

      It seems okay for commerce to have lobbying organizations like The American Chamber of Commerce (a powerful lobby voice in Washington), the manufactures have their organization, the medical profession has their lobby voice (AMA), but where does the lowly wage-earner get off thinking he has the right to have a lobby group in Washington? To be sure that he didn’t have the power to redress his government, his organization has been discredited, laws made against it, and soon the worker is devalued and starts to believe he or she should get to work and keep their mouths shut.

  • Angel Perea

    Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections.

    California Disclose Act via California Clean Money Campaign

    “A blow against Dark Money in California” is the title of this great diary by David Parker on DailyKos’ recommended list. Activists around the country like hearing about our SB 27 victory, too!


    The California Clean Money Campaign Team is a non-partisan, non-profit 501(c)3 organization whose vision is to achieve an open and accountable government that is responsive to the needs of all Californians by building statewide support for full disclosure and public funding of election campaigns. All our support comes from our team of individuals led by Trent Lange, President as well as non-profit foundations, with no funding from corporations or unions.

    Headline from the Sacramento Bee: Gov. Brown signs law requiring political nonprofits to identify donors This, at the very minimum, gets dark money out of the initiative process. As you remember, …Daily Kos

    Friends- Secret billionaires and other special interests trying to buy elections are now on notice! Californians have just won a big victory in our Golden State! After over 40,000 people signed petitions, Governor Brown signed SB 27, a bill to make Dark Money non-profits reveal their secret funders when they try to buy California elections! It’s a first step in our fight against Big Money before we pass SB 52, the California DISCLOSE Act.

    To learn more about our organization and how to spread this message to other states contact: [email protected]
    Thank you, Angel J. Perea, Long Beach, California

    • idamag

      States that had campaign funding regulations, in place, have already been shot down by the Supreme Court. Or should that be, corporate supreme court? Montana, historically, had been hamstrung by te big money boys, such as the copper mine owners. They took over the state, run the government, and gouged the people. They had gone so far as to dig tunnels under peoples’ houses, looking for ore. The pendulum started swinging the other way and Montana made laws to protect them against this type of thing. The laws were in effect for over 100 years. When Citizens United was enacted, Montana objected as it violated their state constitution. The Supreme Court ruled against Montana. They did the same to Los Angeles existing laws.

  • Jeff Bottaro

    The TRAGIC aspect of all of this is that NOBODY seems to have the bold clarity to step forward and ask IF OUR HEALTH CARE PRODUCT IS EVEN WORTH THE BOTHER inherent in the processes it imposes on all of us.

  • charles king

    At one time in America, Unions made our Democracy “REAL” now today the Unions are gone and so did our Democracy disappear. Critical Thinking by the People is needed because MONIES, Greedy Capitalistic Pigs, Plutocracts, Do-nothingiers Republicans and Democracts of all shades. Etcs. has taken over our country. What? the hell is going on in America. Who? are the cause of these problems. The VOTE is the only salvation for the working people of America. The Vote is still Supreme so start doing some critical thinking and get rid of these these Plutocracts Who? are selling off the Peoples Assets and turning around manage the People’s tax dollars. You know Who? they are and the only thing we can do is keep them out of office. Thank You are the magic words in my book. I Love Ya All. Mr. C. E. KING

  • Mark Sales

    The real question, I would suggest, is why is the union focus now on low-paying jobs? While it may be easy for the left to blame “big business” for exporting the traditional union jobs; the venal attitudes of U.S. labor in the destruction of iron-belt manufacturing and associated transportation jobs like maritime, shipbuilding, rail and now automotive industries are also a significant factor in the job losses of those industries in the decades since big labor owned government.

    As I’ve mentioned before unions are only sustainable if they cooperate with business and help make the products globally competitive. The destructive, combative – take no prisoners “negotiations” that they held when the government fix was in was a large reason why the Nation is in the economic straits it currently is in. Now they want to take a cut of the minimum wage jobs. Shame on them.

    • jnap

      We are talking about health care workers. They should have no problem organizing because their jobs can not be outsourced to other countries.
      They should just stop offering their services until they get a fair living wage. Fuck the rich prick governors that only care about themselves. it is time for labor to show their force and stop working until they get a fair deal.

      • Mark Sales

        Can’t agree. The Administration, under the guise of immigration reform, could easily in-source foreign laborers to do the home-health-care visitation jobs. That might fall in line with the ACA’s five-year-plan.

        • jnap

          Baloney , We have strong laws governing who can work in health care and who can’t. You just can’t hire some person off of the street and ask them to take care of your loved one. Would you accept some stranger with no credentials coming into your home to take care of your wife? Labor has become very timid in this country and it is time for workers to stop feeling like slaves and start making demands for a living wage, with benefits. Rise up workers; you have become slaves to the rick MFers who don’t care if you live or die.

          • Mark Sales

            All I’m saying is that ACA is intended to be transformational. Besides who vouches for organized labor “management”, what “credentials” do they actually have?

          • jnap

            Get off of the ACA bullshit. The ACA has nothing to do with who is licensed to come to your home to administer health care to your loved ones. What is it with you, and others, about the ACA. Get over it, it is the law and 10 million people, and counting, now have health insurance that previously didn’t.
            If you don’t like the ACA go Fuck yourself. is that plain enough?