Counterpoint: Health aide union is needed

  • Article by: DARLEEN HENRY
  • Updated: July 2, 2014 - 6:43 PM

Despite Harris vs. Quinn, we’re more driven than ever to organize workers in Minnesota.

The editorial on our effort to form a home care workers union in Minnesota showed a lack of understanding of a Supreme Court decision’s impact on our effort and reinforced why we are more determined than ever to move forward (“The right call on ‘fair share’ fees,” July 2).

The lawsuit currently awaiting a decision in the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals does not apply to us and it never did. Our ability to form a union under state law remains in place and is not affected by this lawsuit or by the Supreme Court’s decision Monday in Harris vs. Quinn.

The editorial also stated that “only a portion of [our] income derives from state subsidies to low-income … disabled people.” The services we provide to elderly and disabled Minnesotans are paid entirely and directly by Medical Assistance, the state’s Medicaid program. Our clients do not receive a subsidy.

While efforts described by Commissioner Ed Ehlinger in his commentary (“New reforms raise oversight of home care,” July 2) are good steps to address problems in the home health care industry, they do not apply to the unlicensed personal care assistance services that we provide.

Most important, we strongly disagree with the editorial’s suggestion that we should instead form a voluntary association without collective bargaining rights. That would change nothing about our inability to impact the changes made to us and to the people we serve.

Forming a union and signing a contract is the only way that working people have ever consistently raised their standards. Had we had a contract in place in 2011, the state could not have imposed the punitive and unconstitutional 20 percent cut to family members providing PCA services to another family member.

For me, this is about my own ability to continue working for the client I deeply care for. I live paycheck to paycheck, with no benefits, and I cannot afford to stay isolated from the other 20,000-plus home care workers who face the same challenges. Last year, we won the right to form a union for the first time. We have no intention of abandoning that now.

Darleen Henry is a home care worker from Rosemount.

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