by Clyde Weiss | May 02, 2012
Missouri home care providers have won a momentous court ruling supporting their decision to build dignity and respect through the Missouri Home Care Union, a partnership between AFSCME Council 72 and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). (Photo by Virginia Lee Hunter)
In a landmark ruling Tuesday, the Missouri Court of Appeals said the state must certify an election for 13,000 home care workers who voted overwhelmingly to be represented by their own union.
“Since 2008, Missouri voters and Missouri in-home care providers have spoken repeatedly in favor of allowing providers to organize themselves to protect the consumers who rely on these programs and improve training and wages,” said home care provider Elinor Simmons of Moline Acre. “Thousands of caregivers are vindicated today, now that the courts have recognized the validity of the democratic choice they made to be represented by the Missouri Home Care Union.”
“This ruling is a huge relief to people like me who rely on home care providers to help us live independently and stay out of nursing homes,” added Edna Austin of Crystal City, who uses home care services. “The union will give them the resources they need to improve their working conditions, reducing turnover and providing more security for the consumers that hire them.”
The providers’ three-year campaign for union representation has been a struggle. They were granted the legal right to form a union after the Missouri Quality Home Care Act passed in 2008 with more than 75 percent of the statewide vote. They cast their first vote to join the Missouri Home Care Union in 2009. By an overwhelming 85 percent, the providers voted for representation. The vote, conducted by the state Board of Mediation, was the largest of its kind in the state’s history.
But a judge blocked certification of their ballots after Springfield-based Integra Health Care Inc. challenged the election. The court later agreed to call for a second election, at the union’s request.
In that second election in 2010, once again a majority of those casting ballots voted in favor of the Missouri Home Care Union, despite an aggressive anti-union campaign run through home care agencies and in the press. The anti-union coalition insisted that a vote for AFSCME would mean less money for services called providers and went to their homes to lobby against the union. After that vote also was challenged, a court voided the election results.
In Tuesday’s ruling, the Court of Appeals for the Western District overturned that judgment and upheld the providers’ vote to form their union. The providers now have the power to negotiate for improvements in the state’s consumer-directed Home Care Program, and to address issues like lack of health insurance, or paid sick and vacation days.
Home care attendants are uniting with AFSCME throughout the country, including in California, Maryland, and Vermont. They want to build power through a union not only to improve their own working conditions, but more importantly, to improve the quality of care available to the consumers of their services. But in some places, like Missouri, they have faced anti-union campaigns waged by private for-profit agencies – and the political right – that are trying to prevent them from building for the future.
With the addition of the Missouri attendants, AFSCME now represents approximately 95,000 independent home care providers nationwide.
Read the story behind the creation of the Missouri Home Care Union in AFSCME WORKS.