A Union Scam Could Be About to End


Opinion | Commentary

Home health workers get ‘organized’ without their knowledge or consent. Janus makes that harder.

By Red Jahncke

July 16, 2018 6:02 p.m. ET

One of the worst public-sector union scams is about to end. “Partial public employee” unions represent in-home health aides, paid by states with Medicaid money to care for disabled beneficiaries—often the aides’ own children or elderly parents.

In recent decades, PPEs have typically come into existence when Democratic governors order union-certification elections with loose rules, usually including a participation rate of only 10%. Many workers are unaware that they have become union members. They remain ignorant, as the state deducts union dues and fees before sending payments. Such payments are usually made through direct deposit and often without an itemized pay stub.

The unions have no incentive to inform the workers—who in turn have no idea they need to contact the union to opt out. Thus money keeps flowing to these unions even though the Supreme Court, in Harris v. Quinn (2014), imposed on PPE unions a ban on forced nonmember “agency fees.” This year, in Janus v. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the court extended that rule to all public-sector unions.

Janus struck a second blow by requiring affirmative consent before collecting money from public workers. That’s good news for the litigants in the 2014 Harris case, whose claim for damages has been pending under the new title Riffey v Rauner. The day after the high court decided Janus, it sent Riffey to the lower court for reconsideration “in light of Janus.” Riffey seeks to recover $32 million in pre-Harris payments to a single Service Employees International Union local in Illinois. Five days later, PPE workers in Washington state filed a lawsuit, Schumacher v. Inslee, seeking refunds from another SEIU local.

A third blow to PPE unions came July 12. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services proposed to repeal its Obama-era rulemaking that validated and approved the practice of deducting union dues and fees from Medicaid payments to in-home health aides. Soon PPE health-care unions will have to collect dues and fees directly from workers. Not so easy.

If the PPE unions succumb to this triple squeeze play, no one will suffer other than union officials. PPE unions do not provide benefits that real unions deliver. Real union contracts provide job security; PPE contracts don’t. PPE contracts provide explicitly that patients—not the state, with which the union contracts—retain the right to hire and fire at will and to supervise, schedule, train and otherwise manage in-home health aides.

Real union contracts have grievance procedures to enforce workplace rules. Not PPE contracts. PPE contracts exclude from their grievance coverage anything related to the patient’s rights, including hiring, firing and supervision. What else would a grievance relate to?

Critics of the Harris and Janus decisions complain about nonunion workers “free riding” or “getting something for nothing.” That presumes that there is something to “ride.” In the case of PPE unions, the workers who remain members get nothing for something.

Mr. Jahncke is president of the Connecticut-based Townsend Group International LLC.


Home care providers, health care providers and business leaders say “Stop the Scam” to the 3.8% tax on the statewide ballot in November

SOUTH PORTLAND, MAINE – Calling the 3.8% income tax on the statewide ballot in November a scam on every front, Maine home care, health care and business leaders outlined how the measure will harm Maine’s people and economy at the launch of the campaign against passage of Question 1 Tuesday in South Portland.

The tax, disguised as a way to help provide home care for elderly and disabled Mainers, would collect private health information on Maine seniors and the disabled that could be shared by an unaccountable government entity for campaign and election purposes, would create long waiting lists for care, and would hinder economic growth in Maine by over-burdening businesses. The measure also would put up barriers to attracting and retaining the workforce Maine’s economy needs by giving Maine the distinction of having the highest top tax rate of any state in the country.

“The proposed 3.8% tax is an outright scam on every front,” said campaign chairperson Newell Augur. “Maine’s elder adults and disabled citizens, our most vulnerable relatives and neighbors, would risk having their private health information shared with an unaccountable government organization with zero oversight. That information would be used for campaigns and electioneering purposes. Furthermore, Maine employers, especially the small and family-owned businesses who are the backbone of our state’s economy, will be harmed by the largest tax increase in Maine history.”

Opponents of the tax shared initial red flags at a press conference in Augusta in May, at which the proposal was deemed in violation of the Maine and U.S. Constitutions and federal labor and privacy laws by former Maine Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Dan Wathen. Additional concerns were raised at that time that the tax applies to all income, including combined household income.

Moreover, this new government program would not be subject to any means test, allowing millionaires and billionaires to benefit from it.

“Maine voters need to know the truth that this measure is nothing short of a scam,” said Augur. “Maine’s businesses and economy will be devastated by this tax, wait lists for home care will be out-of-control because there is no means test for this program, and the privacy of our seniors and disabled will be at risk. The 3.8% tax scam must be defeated.”

For more information on the 3.8% tax scam, please go to www.StopTheScamMaine.com.