Wolf Faces Lawsuits Over Efforts To Change Home-Based Care

Apr 8, 2015

Pennsylvania state capitol building in Harrisburg.
Credit Maguis & David / flickr

Two health care associations and people who receive and provide in-home aid have sued Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf over an executive order they say paves the way for unionized caregivers.

The challenges filed in Commonwealth Court this week take issue with a February executive order allowing direct care workers paid through state programs to recognize a representative who will then meet with state officials to discuss things compensation, training, and other standards. “This is a very defined process for creating, effectively, a union,” said James Kutz, a lawyer with Post & Schell representing the Pennsylvania Homecare Association, United Cerebral Palsy of Pennsylvania, two homecare clients and one homecare worker.

State labor law prohibiting domestic service workers from collective bargaining and unionizing. Opponents say the executive order is an attempt to go around the legislature to change that.

Kutz’s group filed suit on Monday, while a second group, the Fairness Center, sued on behalf of another home care client and his direct care provider. The Fairness Center also asked for an immediate block on the executive order.

The administration maintains that the executive order is simply part of Wolf’s broader plans to improve home-based care. Paying for in-home care givers is less expensive to the state than institutional care. “It doesn’t allow them to organize,” said Wolf spokesman Jeff Sheridan. “It allows them to have a voice.”

Both suits point to a similar order issued in 2010 by former Governor Ed Rendell. The order was withdrawn when a state judge struck it down. “We should expect the same result here,” said David Osborne, the Fairness Center’s top lawyer.