An executive order from Gov. Tom Wolf to create a representative organization for Pennsylvania’s home care workers lost a key provision Thursday when a Commonwealth Court judge barred the organization from making any written policy agreements with the governor’s office.
The executive order, which Wolf signed Feb. 27, gave home care workers the ability to vote for an organization to represent them in monthly talks with an advisory group in the governor’s office. The order also allowed the representative organization to make formal written agreements with the advisory group, but that portion of the order was blocked by Commonwealth Court President Judge Dan Pellegrini’s injunction.
The injunction came the same day home care workers voted in a private ballot election to choose the United Home Care Workers of Pennsylvania (UHCWP) to represent them to the governor’s advisory group. Roughly 3,000 of the 20,000 home care workers in Pennsylvania turned in a ballot, with 89 percent voting in favor of UHCWP representation. Now the UHCWP will be allowed to engage in talks and meetings with the Governor’s office, but will not be able to create any written agreements or policies.
Gloria Williams, 58, works as a home care attendant in Philadelphia. She voted in favor of UHCWP representation, and said she wants to see higher wages and other job improvements.
“The first thing I would like for them to bring to the table is, you know, so we can have benefits,” Williams said. “Which is most important to…a lot of the home care attendants. If someone gets sick and you have to take care of a client, and you go to their home sick, you’re just passing germs back and forth.”
Without the power to create written policy, the UHCWP does not have direct influence over issues such as pay and sick days. Unlike a union, the UHCWP cannot require membership or dues. The text of the executive order states:
“The provisions of this Executive Order shall not be construed or interpreted to create collective bargaining rights or a collective bargaining agreement under any federal or state law.”
Acting Secretary of the Department of Human Services Ted Dallas said he is still hopeful that there will be improvements in home care attendant working conditions.
“I think that’s it’s something we have to have a conversation about,” Dallas said. “Do I think that it will happen overnight? No, but I think that part of the governor’s vision for this is to have that conversation to better understand the system and how it works.”
The full Commonwealth Court will hear arguments against the executive order in September.