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House Passes Collective Bargaining Bill

by Christine Stuart | Apr 20, 2012 11:26pm
(7) Comments | Commenting has expired

Hugh McQuaid photo

Rep. Zeke Zalaski, D-Southington

In an effort to codify two controversial executive orders, the House spent six hours Friday debating a bill that would allow personal care attendants and daycare workers to collectively bargain with the state.

The bill was a strike-all amendment because the actual bills that would have allowed these two groups to bargain with the state died in the Labor and Public Employees Committee. The new legislation passed mostly along party lines, 84-57, with eight Democrats voting against the measure.

The debate pitted Republicans against pro-union Democrats.

“Sometimes there’s many people out there that say they just don’t like unions, don’t want to belong to unions,” Rep. Zeke Zalaski, D-Southington, said.

But Zalaski, who belongs to a union himself, said a union gives him a voice.

“Right now they don’t have any voice,” Zalaski said. “That’s what this bill is all about.”

Currently, these two groups of people don’t have the ability to bargain for better salaries and benefits with an employer, which in this case is the state.

“It’s embarrassing. This bill is embarrassing,” House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero said. “Do these childcare providers and personal care assistants provide a necessary service? You bet they do. You bet they do. And if we don’t have the courage to recognize that and pay them appropriately and train them then shame on us.

“So what are we doing with this bill? If we believe it’s right to pay more money, than let’s do that,” Cafero said, arguing that there is no need for a union for these workers.

Cafero offered an amendment that would increase the funding to the two groups by $13 million and set aside $2 million for training. The amendment failed.

If there’s no money because the state is running a deficit, then there’s little hope these groups will be able to get more payment, Cafero said.

Personal care attendants are paid through a Medicaid waiver system and receive about $8.25 to $22 per hour based on which population they may be serving. Daycare providers who receive money through the Care 4 Kids program make anywhere between $89 to $173 per child, per week, depending upon where their daycare is located.

Earlier in the day, the halls of the Capitol were filled with both proponents and opponents of the legislation.

Pat Tyler, whose daughter has a developmental disability and uses direct care supporters, said she wants her daughter’s workers to be well paid, but forming a union isn’t the right solution. She said she understands the need for a union to negotiate against a big corporation where everyone is working in the same environment, but these groups of personal care attendants and daycare providers are not large institutions.

“We’re talking about mom and pop daycare providers in little houses and people in individual settings with developmental disabilities. It’s really hard to equate that that’s a union world,” Tyler said.

Hugh McQuaid photo

House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero

She said that since institutions are on the downturn the unions must be desperate to keep their membership up. She said these are the same unions, by the way, that have supported institutionalization for developmentally disabled individuals.

“I don’t agree with them controlling the workforce. I don’t agree with them setting the wages and I don’t agree with them deciding the benefits,” Tyler said. “It puts another layer between us.

“Why don’t they just pay them more?” Tyler said.

Deborah Chernoff, spokeswoman for SEIU District 1199, said personal care attendants are limited 25 hours a week per client currently because if they worked more than that the client would need to start paying into the workers compensation system. Creating a union would help resolve that issue, she said.

She said the group will not be able to negotiate anything but wages and benefits and working condition grievances won’t be allowed under the legislation. She said it doesn’t interfere with the relationship between the personal care attendants and their clients.

Hartford resident Imla Eubanks, who has kidney and heart problems, used a personal care attendant to help her out around the house. She said her personal care attendant “needs a voice.” She also needs more money, more hours, vacation time, and sick time.

“They don’t allow her to work more than 25 hours with any one client,” Eubanks said. “And she doesn’t get paid when I’m in the hospital.”

Briana Fernandez, 19, has been a personal care attendant for three years now and she said she doesn’t know many other personal care attendants, so it’s difficult to find new clients.

She estimated that there are more than 7,000 personal care attendants in the state and that none of them have training or health insurance. She said she had to miss a week of work because she got the flu and was unable to get paid or get better because she couldn’t see a doctor without health insurance.

“If I can’t put food on table and take care of myself, then how am I going to be able to take care of someone else,” Fernandez said.

Some members of the two groups have already agreed to join SEIU District 1199 and CSEA/SEIU Local 2001. But the two executive orders and the mail-in ballot process is being challenged in court by two conservative groups.

Several lawmakers who opposed the bill offered questions seeking legislative intent, which would help their court case.

The bill now goes to the Senate.

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(7) Comments

posted by: Hebee | April 21, 2012  6:44am

{Zalaski, who belongs to a union himself, said a union “gives him a voice.”}:
  The Union didn’t give Zaleski his “voice”; He IS the Union Voice (at the expense of the rest of his constituents). Zaleski, Donavan and other members of our 2012 Legislature are current or former Union Leaders in their “Day Jobs”. With a Union “bought and paid for Governor” and slim odds of a united membership backing Malloy again, these legislators have decide to shove every liberal piece of legislation down our throats in this single Term.
  Zaleski and many of his cronies will lose the next election; but he and these others will rise again as private sector Lobbyists. The revolving door between elected public representative and paid private influence peddler, turns just as easily in our state arena as it does in Washington D.C. Shown the way for decades by Nancy Johnson, Chris Dodd and a hundred others down the political food chain, the cycle of life will continue for Connecticut’s Democratic 2012 Election losers.

posted by: lkulmann | April 21, 2012  11:50am

This is not about JUST money. There are so many people who speak to issues to which they are clueless. The current trend in healthcare is moving people out into the community and out of institutions ie…nursing homes. There will be an increased need for PCA’s to come into your home to care for your needy/disabled family member. If they make $10/hr and it costs $5.00 per gallon of gas, how on earth does someone survive independently? You can’t. This group of workers need State assistance…medical, SNAP, housing and etc…Isn’t it simple logic to pay them a salary that allows them to self sufficient. Bringing this group together with standard basic training, educational opportunities, benefits such as paid sick days and vacation. Making this a viable career so people do this type of work because they choose to not because ‘anyone can do PCA/HHA work’ Remember folks, these Caregivers are going to be in your homes taking care of YOUR family member one day. I hope you expect competence and quality of care. IMO, this group of workers are most vulnerable to employment-type issues so union protection is a no-brainer.

posted by: GoatBoyPHD | April 21, 2012  3:20pm

GoatBoyPHD

Mention the word union and the Democrats swoon.

Increase the Minimum wage for non-union workers and they choke on their own vomit.

The Democrats remain bought and sold union toadies.

posted by: ALD | April 21, 2012  9:13pm

Ikulmann,

Your comments are very reasonable.  I actually agree with you.  However let me take this a bit further.  I’m 100% sure you agree that not everyone in a nursing home can be moved into the community. For many of those a nursing home is the right place and for many of those Title 19 at least assures them the care they need.

About 5 years ago my mother was in this situation.  She was living in Assisted Living at a cost at the time of about $3500 a month.  But her money was quickly running out. Her only choice then was to go onto Title 19 which would have moved her from Assisted living to a nursing home at a cost to the state of about $10,000 a month. 

My mother had been in and out of nursing homes for various reasons ( falls etc) over the last few years and I had noticed at how many of those living there could have been placed in Assisted Living places had Title 19 allowed that. I estimated at least 30% of those living in Nursing homes could living much more happily in Assisted Living at 1/3 the cost to the state if Title 19 allowed that.  But sadly it does not.

I contacted both my reps at the time Zeke Zalaski, and Chris Murphy.  Obviously I had selfish interests, but beyond my interests they both should have shown concern for the obvious waste to the tax payers of this state.  Why would any responsible legislator accept this sort of waste?  Zalaski at least showed some mild interest in my arguments.  Murphy was worthless, although I did get an invite to a fund raiser for him.  Sadly I was busy!!! grin

My bottom line is to agree with you that the people taking care of our love ones should be able to do so without having to make extreme sacrifices themselves.  But as usual it seems our General Assembly is avoiding dealing with the real problem.  Let those on Title 19 who could live in Assisted Living stay there don’t force those people into nursing homes. It would ease the burden as well as expense for everyone.

posted by: ACR | April 21, 2012  10:06pm

ACR

lkulmann said:
IMO, this group of workers are most vulnerable to employment-type issues so union protection is a no-brainer.

They receive higher pay and are permitted to do more if they possess a CNA which thanks to the Democrats costs $349 just for the test (and the money goes to a New Jersey firm no-less).

The Democrats have no desire to help the poor bootstrap their way out of poverty.
Quite the contrary they’ve constructed an elaborate unnavigable maze in order to keep their unwilling constituency down and dependent on them (the Democrats).

posted by: goodwin10 | April 22, 2012  5:08pm

ACR said “They receive higher pay and are permitted to do more if they possess a CNA”.... you are WRONG!

These programs that this is about do NOT pay more if you cerfitied as a CNA. I am a cerfitied and do NOT get paid more for having that training. If you are not involved directly with the situation perhaps you should learn what you are talking about before you comment.

posted by: ACR | April 22, 2012  8:29pm

ACR

goodwin10 said:

“These programs that this is about do NOT pay more if you cerfitied as a CNA. I am a cerfitied and do NOT get paid more for having that training”

I’m familiar enough.

BTW - download a spell checker.