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No more dues skimming…for now

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In case you missed it early this month, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a ruling to protect the subsidies going to disabled Americans in need of round-the-clock home care. The ruling prohibits money from Medicaid payments being given to third parties. As such, it stops the deduction of union dues from the paychecks of some 3 million home care workers nationwide going to mega-unions like SEIU. 

It also protects some 20,000 Pennsylvania home care workers–people like Connie Euston, who for 16 years has cared for her paralyzed adult son with the help of Medicaid payments. As she noted, she doesn’t need to unionize against her “employer”–who is in fact, her own son.

For several years, unions like SEIU and AFSCME have engaged in a campaign of “stealth unionization,” targeting direct home caregivers for union payments without officially unionizing them. It’s a practice dubbed dues “skimming,” because unions skim off the top of families’ Medicaid payments to get dues money.

For home care workers, however, the unions’ campaign has been both cynical and largely unwanted. That’s because like Connie, many home caregivers are parents, spouses, other relatives, or close friends who are caring for loved ones so the latter don’t end up in expensive institutions. For their non-stop work, these families get help through Medicaid and/or state healthcare subsidies to cover the cost of care.

That’s the money that multi-million dollar unions have been targeting for their own coffers. In Pennsylvania, these automatic union dues add up to almost $8 million a year.

Since the HHS health care ruling—which parallels Janus v. AFSCME in its protection of the little guy—SEIU has unsurprisingly sued the Trump administration over the new prohibition. They join the states California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Washington in challenging it.

For now, at least, Pennsylvania families are protected from the dues skimming scam. Those who want union representation can still pay their dues separately to groups like United Home Care Workers of Pennsylvania. Let’s hope this ruling protecting home caregivers sticks.

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