CT Golden Years: Elder, Disabled Advocates Vow Continued Fight After Legislature Passes Forced Unionization Bill

The state Legislature bailed out Gov. Dannel Malloy’s efforts to force unionization on day care and home care workers for the disabled and elderly, but that doesn’t mean the issue is decided.

State Sen. Joe Markley, R-Southington, and the Yankee Institute for Public Policy both have vowed to continue the fight against forced unionization in the courts, where at least three lawsuits seeking to overturn Malloy’s policy currently are pending.

“During my three decades of public policy fights, this has been the most personal to me,” Markley said after the bill was passed by the Senate. The issue now “centers on a 49-year-old Manchester woman named Cathy Ludlum, who is one of the most remarkable people I’ve ever met.

Ron Winter

“Confined to a wheelchair, Cathy employs 11 Medicaid funded Personal Care Assistants, known as PCAs. Those PCAs care for Cathy because she suffers from a neuromuscular disease that severely limits her movement. Cathy’s team gives her a fantastic quality of life, and with their help she’s lived on her own for 20 years.  She lives independently and at lower cost to the state than if she were living in an institution.

“Through this power grab, state employee unions have reached right into the homes of Connecticut residents, like Cathy. The process has been suspect from the start, beginning with Governor Malloy’s executive order, which ignored the will and the authority of the legislature.  The process also ignored the majority of disabled, elderly and day care providers who only ask ‘nothing about us with out us.

“Now the vote of a small number of day care providers, who run a business out of the home and care for the children of a family that receives Care 4 Kids, will force the rest to pay dues to a union, and accept the deal negotiated on their behalf.

After Malloy issued his executive orders the Service Employees International Union – SEIU – forced a “card check” vote on about 4,000 home care aides. The vote was conducted by mailing ballots to the workers and requiring them to send the ballots back to the union.

Of the more than 4,000 ballots only about 1,600 were returned, although the majority of those supported the SEIU – which now has begun representing all the child-care workers and home care attendants. Opposition to the orders comes from a wide range of individuals and businesses all of which would be adversely affected by the increased costs associated with unionization.

Fergus Cullen, Executive Director of the Yankee Institute, also responded to the legislature’s vote to authorize the organization of certain personal care attendants and daycare providers. Cullen said the vote “does not affect our lawsuit challenging the legality of the administration’s forced unionization of certain personal care attendants and daycare providers.

“Observers should not make the mistake of concluding that the legislature’s action makes moot the lawsuits challenging the forced unionization of these workers.

“Our suits make two sets of arguments. First, we argue that the governor’s use of executive orders to implement this forced unionization scheme improperly usurped a legislative responsibility. The legislature’s attempt to sanction the governor’s action retroactively concedes that point, which we appreciate, but it does not make the original executive orders legal.

“The legality of all the union organizing that has taken place under the authority of the executive orders is therefore still very much in doubt.

“Our second set of arguments is that the unionization of these employees is illegal under existing state and federal law. These groups of personal care attendants and daycare providers, who are private sector employees and self-employed small businesspeople, are not subject to unionization in the first place.

Markley also has joined in the legal battle. “Along with Cathy Ludlum and the Connecticut Association of Personal Care Assistance and other state citizens and groups, I have filed a lawsuit challenging the executive order.  I will continue to fight this illegal order, and I have growing confidence that we will prevail.

“The biggest fear I have with the passage of this bill is the money to support an increase in wages and benefits will only result in less services for the very people who need them the most.”

Although proponents of the legislation celebrated after it passed the Senate, it was clear from the positions espoused by opponents that there is more to come. As Cullen said,

“See you in court …. .”


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