Proposed law would force parents to attend union-led ‘training’

Paul Kersey

Labor law expert, occasional smart-aleck, defender of the free society.

Paul Kersey
/ Labor
November 18, 2014

Proposed law would force parents to attend union-led ‘training’

Union recruiters have been relentless in making sure that caregivers get to hear the union’s pitch.

While the Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, continues to take advantage of the state’s caregiver “training” program to recruit dues-paying members, the Illinois General Assembly is poised to make mandatory training of home-based caregivers permanent by writing it into state law. This is a cynical move that will benefit the SEIU but will create permanent hardships for families across the state.

Under the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Harris v. Quinn, decided earlier this year, personal assistants who take part in the state’s Home Based Services Program cannot be forced to pay union dues. The vast majority of personal assistants are family members of disabled Illinoisans, and are the primary caretakers for their loved ones. A small Medicaid benefit is available to home caregivers to help defray the cost of this care.

The SEIU and the Blagojevich administration tried to recast these family caregivers as state employees who could be unionized and made to pay union dues, and the SEIU Healthcare IL-IN local managed to divert as much as $10 million a year from state funds that were meant to help the disabled and the families that care for them. The Supreme Court saw through the ruse and determined that family caregivers could not be forced to pay union dues.

For SEIU Healthcare IL-IN, the ruling was a stiff rebuke, but the union is determined to hold on to as much dues revenue as possible. Taking advantage of a clause in their contract with the state, the union set up mandatory training on fraud prevention for caregivers. The state is paying as much as $2 million to facilitate these sessions. And in the course of the “training” sessions, union officials have been hounding caregivers to sign union cards.

Late in the evening of Nov. 18, during the lame-duck legislative session in Springfield, a bill was amended to make this training a permanent part of the Home Based Services program. If this bill passes, SEIU officials will be given an annual chance to badger home-based caregivers into joining the union and paying dues.

The training program is a serious hardship for many families. Many of the disabled Illinoisans receiving care under this Medicaid program require around-the-clock care, so the family members who tend to them cannot always leave them alone for the three hours (plus travel time) needed for the “training.” This writer has seen caregivers bringing their disabled relatives to the training with them rather than leave their loved ones alone. Union recruiters have been relentless in making sure that caregivers get to hear the union’s pitch and to block out others with a different point of view.

We have received reports of caregivers being given misleading information at these sessions, the most dismaying of which is that, “in order to receive health-care benefits [they] had to join the union.” This is not true, as part of the collective-bargaining agreement was the inclusion of health-care benefits without the stipulation of union membership.

One woman, who takes care of her two adult-age children who have multiple sclerosis, described the joy of being their caretaker over an institution where she would be a mere visitor. She feels there is no one in this world more qualified to give them love and support. She also said, “the little I receive from the state to help me support my children is being eaten away with union dues.”

Another woman said, “I joined the union because they said they would fight for me and yet I can’t even get in to see my case manager to fight for more hours. They aren’t doing anything for me, except taking my money that I need.”

The need for the training is questionable at best. Many of these families have been giving wonderful care to their loved ones for years. Talking to caregivers as they leave the training, this writer has heard more than one caregiver describe the entire operation as “pointless” and “a complete waste of time.” Much of the information is available online.

The union is not entitled to any help in recruiting members in a “bargaining unit” they should have never been allowed to represent in the first place. The “training” is supposed to be about protecting program participants from fraud. In reality the training itself is a fraud; one that Illinois taxpayers shouldn’t be paying for and families of the disabled shouldn’t be subjected to.

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