The following is a media release from the Massachusetts Attorney General’s office submitted to SOURCE.
BOSTON – Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey today, May 13, joined a multistate lawsuit challenging the Trump Administration’s attempt to undermine the bargaining power of tens of thousands of Massachusetts Personal Care Attendants (PCAs).
In the lawsuit, filed today in the Northern District of California the attorneys general argue that if a final rule change from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is allowed to go forward, it would unnecessarily disrupt a longstanding practice by which states make Medicaid payments to PCAs through a third-party intermediary that handles payroll deductions for union dues, health insurance, and other benefits.
“This rule change undermines the bargaining power of Massachusetts PCAs for no other reason than to advance the Trump Administration’s anti-union agenda,” said Healey. “We are filing this lawsuit today to protect the tens of thousands of homecare workers and the elderly and disabled consumers in Massachusetts who need their services for daily living.”
In Massachusetts, PCAs provide critical services to the sick, elderly and disabled – they help with medications, bathing and grooming, dressing, exercises, eating, and household tasks, such as laundry, grocery shopping, cooking, and housekeeping.
PCAs are hired directly by the consumers who need their services for daily living. Home care providers in Massachusetts are predominately women of color and immigrants.
“On behalf of the 48,000 personal care attendants in Massachusetts, 1199SEIU applauds Attorney General Maura Healey for taking legal action to block this rule that targets working women of color,” said Tim Foley, 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East Executive Vice President. “PCAs provide crucial and compassionate work to ensure seniors and people with disabilities are able to live at home safely and with dignity. By joining together in 1199SEIU, PCAs have won higher wages and skilled training opportunities to help retain quality caregivers and improve home care. And just like teachers, firefighters or police officers, PCAs have the right to choose how to use their own wages, including to join and support their union.”
“The Trump administration’s rule change to disallow union payments made by disabled Personal Care Attendant employers through a third-party fiscal intermediary is reckless and misguided,” said Charlie Carr, former head of the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission. “It will destabilize an already fragile workforce and most likely result in hobbling the unions ability to engage in collective bargaining for better wages and benefits for workers. In turn, disabled employers will lose PCAs to higher paying jobs in this robust economy. It’s a recipe for disaster and will certainly result in worker shortages that will force us back into nursing homes and other institutions.”
Massachusetts PCAs voted to join SEIU 1199 in 2007 and under their collective bargaining agreement, they are paid $15 per hour. PCAs have directed their employers to deduct union dues from their wages, but the new rule interferes with this choice.
The rule change may also prevent the intermediaries from using Medicaid funds to purchase workers compensation coverage for PCAs. It is not clear how elderly and disabled individuals would purchase workers compensation coverage for their PCAs under the new rule, putting both PCAs and consumers at risk.
Massachusetts PCAs’ collective bargaining agreement has resulted in higher wages and better training for these workers. This has provided a more stable and professionalized workforce of PCAs and improved the quality and quantity of PCAs available to meet the changing needs of Massachusetts consumers.
The attorneys general submitted a comment in August 2018 urging HHS to withdraw the proposed rule, arguing the federal government’s rule change was would disrupt decades of the well-established collective bargaining relationships, cause devastating harm to state healthcare budgets, and erode the states’ capacity to provide needed home care for elderly and disabled residents.
Joining AG Healey in filing today’s lawsuit are attorneys general from California, Connecticut, Oregon, and Washington.
This matter is being handled by Division Chief Cynthia Mark, and Assistant Attorney General Karla Zarbo, both of AG Healey’s Fair Labor Division.