The Common Goals of the Governor and the Labor Union Versus Home Care Workers

Yesterday, the Rhode Island Center for Freedom & Prosperity questioned whether there was any connection between the state executive’s delay of raises for home care workers and a self-promotional postcard from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) insinuating that those workers’ agencies were the ones withholding the money:

The SEIU postcard deceptively makes it appear as if the home care agencies received the legislative reimbursement rate increases … but that that they were not passed on to the individual providers in the form of a pay increase. The RIPHC has promised its home care service providers that virtually all reimbursement increases would be passed on to them, however, the agencies have not yet received the scheduled increases.

Was this part of a grand, corrupt scheme? Further investigation is required.

For its part, the SEIU had no response but to parrot unsubstantiated (and, in any case, irrelevant) assertions about the Center’s funding.  There is far more reason to believe the SEIU and Governor Gina Raimondo are coordinating in this matter than that anybody who opposes them must be a front for some out-of-state bogeymen.

The SEIU’s postcard raises two issues:

On 7/1/18 all Home Care Agencies received large increases in Medicaid reimbursement rates via the RI State Budget…

Under a new state law that our union helped to fight for, every employer with 18 or more employees must provide earned sick time starting July 1, 2018.

When the SEIU endorsed Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo’s reelection, her statement cited similar issues, but with one conspicuous difference:

“With the SEIU by my side, we will keep making great progress for our hardworking families so every single Rhode Islander can keep up and get ahead,” said Governor Raimondo. “Together we signed paid sick leave into law, we’ve worked together year after year to invest in our kids and the hardworking Rhode Islanders who care for them with good contracts for childcare workers, we passed a new law to help train and organize home-care workers and provide our aging population with the high-quality care they need, and we’ll keep listening to each other to protect more Rhode Island workers and make sure that everyone can compete in our growing economy.”

Note that Raimondo doesn’t mention the raises, but rather, she focuses on new legislation that could enable a labor union to replace the private agencies currently coordinating home-care services.  And why should she?  The raises were put in the budget by the General Assembly, not as part of the governor’s request.

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Another place that conspicuously fails to mention the forthcoming raises is the Facebook page of the SEIU local 1199, which produced the postcard.  The page contains multiple posts celebrating the unionization legislation, but nothing about raises.  Obviously, the union doesn’t like telling the story that home care workers can secure raises without unionizing.

However, the SEIU’s Facebook page does have multiple posts celebrating labor union strikes outside of a hospital and a school for disabled children.  While the legislation allowing unionization of home care workers does not authorize “any strike or other collective cessation” of services, this is the world into which unionization would potentially drag those who need these services, and as we’re now seeing with Providence teachers, that world includes not-quite-a-strike actions like “work to rule.”

A world in which the governor insists that she’s been “working together” with the SEIU is also one in which it is not unreasonable to wonder whether their cooperation includes manipulation of payments to workers in order to give the union an opening.  After all, the union’s endorsement means the SEIU will be working to help Gina Raimondo be elected.  Labor unions are elected, too, and the question is what Raimondo will do to help the SEIU win.

A desire not to be a part of that world is one reason government employees might choose to visit and learn how to withdraw from their unions, and is a reason home-care workers might choose not to become members in the first place.

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Of the following two issues related to Rhode Island’s public schools, which one is a greater concern?

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