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Politics & Government

Court Stops State From Sealing Deals With Home Care Workers

Gov. Tom Wolf has said he just wants to give in-home care workers a voice.

Under a partial injunction issued Thursday, that voice would be somewhat muted.

Commonwealth Court Judge Dan Pellegrini has ruled that direct care workers can still elect a representative, who can still meet with state officials about things like standards, training, working conditions. But Pellegrini barred the parties from putting any agreement in writing.

The preliminary injunction has blocked part of the governor's effort to give in-home caregivers a role in how state programs shape and pay for long-term care.

The judge has also scheduled a hearing on the merits of the executive order in September.

Both sides in the legal dispute are calling the ruling a victory. Wolf's legal aides stressed that it allows the election of a workers' representative to go forward. Opponents of the executive order said the injunction blocks "the most critical part" — a written agreement between parties.

The lawsuits over Wolf's order were filed by two health care associations (Pennsylvania Homecare Association and United Cerebral Palsy of Pennsylvania, as well as two homecare clients and one home care worker) and the Fairness Centre, a public interest law firm with ties to the Commonwealth Foundation, a free-market group based in Pennsylvania.

They say Wolf is trying to let in-home caregivers unionize - and state law doesn't allow domestic service workers to engage in collective bargaining and unionizing. The governor's administration insists Wolf's executive order does not establish an in-home care workers' union.