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Home Health Providers Can Form Unions, 8th Circuit Rules

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By Jonathan R. Tung, Esq. on December 09, 2015 12:00 PM

The Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit declined to overturn a lower district court's ruling that several thousand home care workers who assist the elderly and disabled had the right to form a union.

The decision is most likely going to add to already tense relations between home care workers and fully recognized employees who work for the public, the latter of whom arguing that the change will force some to pay union dues for a union they have no desire to join.

Opposition

The decision by the circuit court is a blow to workers who opposed the Services Employees International Union drive, which had championed the cause and interests of up to 27,000 home-care workers. Doug Seaton, representing the plaintiffs, said "We think we are correct and the court is mistaken."

"Invisible No More"

Supporters of the movement argue that the move will stabilize the industry which is marked with high turnover rates and forced dues. Last January, a contract was agreed upon that would provide for a minimum $11/hour wage and paid time off. Sumer Spika, the union's vice president said that work in the industry was typically done by persons of color and predominantly by women. She saw the union as a means of bringing public recognition and attention to a service group that had been overlooked "for far too long."

Other Legal Issues

Other legal issues also include a debate about whether or not the union violates pre-existing contracts workers might already have with clients who pay for services using Medicaid money. Implied certification has been the basis for whistleblower lawsuits. So far, it appears that the issue opponents have raised regarding violations of First Amendment rights of Freedom of Association have not yet been decided.

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