Election 2012
12:13 pm
Thu October 11, 2012

4 things to know about Proposal 4: Collective bargaining for home health aides

Under the federally-funded Home Help Services Program, qualifying elderly or disabled residents of Michigan are eligible to receive in-home assistance with personal care and household chores.

Participants of the program have discretion in the hiring and firing of home health aides, and have their services paid for by Medicaid funds administered through the Michigan departments of Community Health and Human Services.

The aides are often family members or friends of the individuals they care for. The Citizens Research Council estimates some 42,000 home health care workers are receiving Medicaid funds under the program.

First, a little history...

In 2004, home health care workers receiving federal and state funds were designated public employees by an agreement between state and county officials.

This allowed them to organize under Michigan’s Public Employment Relations Act (PERA), and in 2005, home health care workers voted to recognize the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) as its bargaining unit.

Just last year, PERA  was amended to exclude home health aides. Subsequently, SEIU sued and a federal judge issued a temporary injunction protecting the workers’ existing contract until its expiration in February 2013.

Attorney General Bill Schuette announced that he would appeal the decision. 

Thus, Proposal 4.

What it does

Proponents of the amendment seek to establish home health care workers as public employees solely for the purpose of collective bargaining.

See Proposal 4 as it will appear on the ballot

And check out the full text of the amendment

What you should know:

The Citizens Research Council of Michigan has done an analysis of all six ballot measures. The following "things to know" were gleaned from their report on Proposal 4.

The CRC is a non-partisan, non-profit, independent research group. 

1) How the amendment might affect home care

The amendment would establish the Michigan Quality Home Care Council to oversee home health aides in Michigan.

The council, chaired by the director of the Department of Community Health, would be tasked with “improving the availability, reliability and skills of the individual providers of [home health care services].”

As stated in the amendment, the Council would:

  • Provide training opportunities for providers to improve provider skills and for participants to facilitate their ability to hire and manage providers
  • Provide for a registry that may refer prescreened home health care providers, though participants retain the right to hire providers who are not referred from the registry
  • Ensure that financial management services are available to participants to facilitate their ability to employ providers
  • Set compensation standards subject to appropriations by the legislature, and other terms and conditions for the employment of providers by participants.

A registry and training opportunities for home health care workers are currently available through an existing oversight council.

But as the CRC notes, only 1 percent of aides were hired from the registry in fiscal year 2010.

Similarly, just  “an average of 520 aides attend a training session each year."

2) It won't affect funding of the home health care program

As the CRC notes, “the program that pays for home health aides depends on federal and state funding, not on the bargaining right or union affiliation of, nor payment of union dues by, home health care aides.”

3) Home health aides become public employees solely for collective bargaining

From the amendment:

"...such providers shall not, as a consequence of this Section, be considered public or State employees for any other purpose, nor be entitled to any legal benefit reserved to such employees."

Further, the collective bargaining rights established in the amendment would not limit the rights of program participants (the elderly and disabled) to "select, supervise, train and direct, or terminate, an individual provider."

And finally the amendment explicitly states that providers shall not have the right to strike. 

4) Voters will decide the role of Michigan's Constitution

Apart from the single issues addressed by each ballot proposal, Michigan voters this year will also be deciding what role the Constitution should play in the government of the state. 

As the CRC points out, citizens should thoughtfully consider whether issues like collective bargaining should be enshrined in the Constitution, or decided in law courts and the legislature.

A question

We wanted to know more about how this amendment would affect wages.

With the current limitation on collective bargaining for state employees, how would union membership help home health care workers?

If you're familiar with this issue, please share your thoughts with us.

- Jordan Wyant, Michigan Radio Newsroom