Reading the section in this week’s Providence Journal “Political Scene,” one can’t help but think that our legislators are either not thinking things through or have ulterior motives:
Sponsored by Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin in the Senate, and Rep. Christopher Blazejewski in the House, the legislation envisions a new class of worker — the “independent″ home care worker — going into the homes of the elderly and the disabled to help them with basic daily activities such as eating, bathing, dressing and getting to and from the toilet. The legislation would allow these independent contractors to choose a “representative″ to negotiate with the state over their rates, benefits “and other economic matters.”
Granted, the consequences of this bill would be much less than they would have been a few years ago, before the Supreme Court ruled that Illinois couldn’t force this class of worker to join a union. Before that ruling, parents who were simply seeking financial assistance to care for their disabled children were being billed for union dues. Even so, allowing unions into the equation will raise concerns about whether care providers are being fully informed about their rights and the pluses and minuses of joining the union as well as provisions that the unions might negotiate to be written into laws affecting even non-union workers.
More directly, though, this legislation would be another issue raising the question of who is actually advocating on behalf of taxpayers. As the Providence Journal points out, “since then-Gov. Lincoln Chafee signed the child-care unionization bill, the state subsidized cost of child care has increased by 54 percent.” Is Rhode Island’s budget not growing fast enough?
The article also raises the question of why this is needed. The legislation already calls for 10–20% raises for home care workers and implements annual inflation adjustments. Moreover, the column closes with Speaker of the House Nicholas Mattiello arguing on behalf of making pay for the workers more-competitive.
Two possibilities emerge: Either unionization is absolutely unnecessary and is simply a way to siphon off home care dollars to the unions and then back into politicians coffers, or it will drive up costs beyond what even sympathetic legislators think is reasonable.