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Judge orders injunction to stop executive order unionizing home-care workers

By Jana Benscoter | Watchdog Arena

A Commonwealth Court document submitted on Thursday, April 23 reads that “a preliminary injunction” has been issued to stop Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf from further activity related to a February executive order. The order had language in it that allowed home health care workers to unionize.

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Shutterstock Image

ORDER HALTED: Unions working toward collective bargaining for Pennsylvania home care workers have been ordered to stop by a Commonwealth Court judge.

According to thedocument, President Judge Dan Pellegrini wrote three sections that explained the executive order must be evaluated on its merits; no action can be taken after April 23 to intervene in the court case; and comments for and against the injunction will continue for up to 75 days depending based on Pennsylvania Rules of Civil Procedure.

The Fairness Center, a legal team in Harrisburg that works to advise clients in union cases, counted the decision as a victory.

“This is a huge victory for folks like our clients Don Lambrect and Dave Smith who have no interest in having a union interrupt their mutually beneficial working relationship,” General Counsel for the Fairness Center David Osborne said. “The injunction prevents the union and the governor from coming to terms that harm home-care workers and their employers, who are often family members or close friends.”

The hearing was held late Wednesday afternoon. The Pennsylvania Homecare Association, as well as United Cerebral Palsy of Pennsylvania, also have an interest in this case. The Pennsylvania Homecare Association wrote on its website, “Gov. Wolf’s (executive order) is almost identical to former Gov. Rendell’s (executive order) in 2010 that established a union organizational process and collective bargaining rights for direct care workers. An injunction was granted by the Commonwealth Court, and Gov. Rendell ultimately rescinded the (executive order).”

Shortly after the February executive order was signed, thousands of home-care workers received a secret ballot. Wolf maintained that he was not part of any secret organization of home-care workers. As a follow-up to the ballot, the same residents received a letterencouraging workers to unionize. The ballot drive is organized by the United Home Care Workers of Pennsylvania, a joint effort of public unions with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees (AFSCME).

“The union election is now essentially meaningless,” Osborne said in a written statement. “The union will not be able to come to terms with the state and, more importantly, will not be able to get the state’s help in taking dues out of home-care workers’ paychecks.”

On Monday, prior to the injunction, Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati and Speaker of the House Mike Turzai filed an Amicus brief on behalf of the plaintiffs in the Fairness Center lawsuit, according to the center.

Pennsylvania leadership said they have “a significant interest as leaders in the Pennsylvania House and Senate in protecting the institutional power of the Legislature from unconstitutional encroachment by the Executive.” The Fairness Center reported, leadership called Wolf’s executive order “a blatant attempt by the Governor to circumvent the constitutionally-granted legislative authority of the General Assembly. The executive order should be declared invalid.”

“It’s encouraging to see legislative leaders stand up for home-care workers and for the integrity of the state Constitution,” Osborne said. “No one – Republican or Democrat – should be comfortable with their governor issuing unconstitutional executive orders.”

This article was written by a contributor of Watchdog Arena, Franklin Center’s network of writers, bloggers, and citizen journalists.