Our Editorial: Unions shouldn’t shake down home health workers

The Detroit News

The latest Obama-era gift to labor unions is being taken back, with the Trump administration’s removal of a rule allowing states to divert Medicaid money from the paychecks of in-home personal care workers to union coffers.

The administration is seeking to fall in line with a 2014 decision handed down by the Supreme Court in the Harris v. Quinn case that required these types of payments to stop. Through political jockeying and lobbying, however, the unions were able to keep the payments coming.

Home-care workers paid by Medicaid are generally parents or other relatives caring for developmentally disabled children and family members who have aged out of other health care programs. The workers are hired independently, and the nature of the work means the union can’t represent their “employees” in a traditional manner. For example, a mother would not file a grievance against her disabled child, who is technically her employer. 

Our Editorial: "The Trump administration is right to get this rule off the books, protect home health workers, and uphold the Supreme Court ruling."

The Service Employees International Union, which represents nearly 2 million workers, including home-care workers, is the largest union responsible for the paycheck siphoning. But others are involved, too. 

That arrangement bypasses the normal organizing drives, giving the unions defacto members without the bother of having to convince them that the services they offer are worth the money. In effect, the federal government becomes an agent of the unions. 

If workers want to be members of unions and pay dues, they should be able to decide that for themselves. But the federal government shouldn’t be collecting dues for the unions.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimates that unions currently collect as much as $71 million a year from Medicaid payments that are due to home health workers. And that may be a low-ball estimate.

The dues are deducted directly from the Medicaid check, and are delivered to the unions by the federal government without seeking the consent of the employee. Many home-care workers don’t even know they are paying the unions.

They deserve the choice of whether or not to unionize. 

The unions contend they use the fees to lobby for a larger Medicaid budget. But there’s no evidence the dues are so specifically earmarked, or that any lobby efforts by the unions are producing the promised result. 

In reality, this was a clever way for a Democratic administration to funnel additional taxpayer dollars to a union that supports their candidates, while reducing the already modest pay of home-health workers. 

The Trump administration is right to get this rule off the books, protect home health workers, and comply with the Supreme Court ruling.