Within days, the Supreme Court will decide Harris v. Quinn, a case involving a bizarre form of "public sector" labor union that has proliferated in recent years, mostly pursuant to executive orders of liberal Democratic state governors. Having governors as union organizers is particularly strange.
Normal unions bargain with members’ employers. These don’t. Their members are not state employees, yet the unions “negotiate” wages, benefits and work rules with state governments.
So far, these unconventional unions have been used to organize two types of in-home workers: personal care aides or PCAs (aka home health aides) and family child care providers or FCCPs.
The PCAs provide at-home care for the elderly and the disabled who hire them, paying them with government health plan reimbursements. The FCCPs run child care businesses — they are not employees at all — caring for young children of low-income parents who pay them with state-subsidy vouchers.
Things diverge even from these tortured definitions of "employees." Many PCAs are anything but "employees" – they are family members caring for loved ones. Many FCCPs are low-income parents themselves, collecting welfare subsidies under union contract to care for their own young children – which, in effect, unionizes welfare recipients.
The court will decide the law. The electorate should weigh in on the public policy issues. The key question is do we need these peculiar “unions”?
If the main purpose of any union is to increase members’ wages, where’s the need for a union if activist governors "across the bargaining table" are committed already to bumping their wages? Why not simply increase reimbursement rates for PCAs and voucher amounts for FCCPs?
If these workers need training, why not simply institute or strengthen existing licensing requirements and provide job-training grants? States license many professionals, ranging from beauticians to home remodelers, and provide many types of training grants.
One struggles to understand the need for these unions, and to imagine any natural way they might have emerged.
In fact, workers did not rise up. These “unions” are contrivances of union-friendly governors, created mostly by executive orders setting down rules rigged in favor of union recognition.
Take Maryland’s rules: step one, signatures of only 30 percent of the workers to be covered gathered over no more than 12 months, including the 12 prior to the date of the order; step two, a mail-in election.
There were no requirements governing signature collection, nor, logically, could there have been, since collection was permitted before issue of the order itself. Nor were there requirements for the balloting. No requirement to notify all workers. No required participation rate, much less secret balloting.
Sure enough, out of about 5,800 Maryland FCCPs, only about 1,700 voted in the unionization election, including 330 opposed. Likely, everything was over before many of the other 4,100 had any inkling.
So, why these unions? It’s the usual quid pro quo between Democratic governors and unions: you get me elected, I give you a cushy contract – or, in these cases, I organize a whole new class of unions from whose members you can extract dues.
Voters should curtail these cockamamie unions that have impressed hundreds of thousands of workers and siphoned tens of millions of dollars in annual dues from budgets for in-home health care and child care in states already under financial pressure.
So far, the record is encouraging. In eight of the 21 states where these unions have popped up, they have already been decommissioned. On the ballot this fall are four incumbents who have created these farcical incarnations: Dannel Malloy in Connecticut, Pat Quinn in Illinois, Mark Dayton in Minnesota and Peter Shumlin in Vermont. Voters should decommission them.Red Jahncke is president of The Townsend Group, a management consulting firm in Connecticut.