The Department of Social Services confirmed that it is “looking into” claims that personal care assistants employed through private non-profit agencies are having union dues deducted from their paychecks without authorization.
Karen Hansen of Community Allied Resources, the company which administers paychecks for PCAs paid for by agencies like the DSS, also confirmed that “we have had calls indicating this kind of thing.”
“We operate off the list of the union members supplied by the SEIU 1199 as we’re obligated to do,” she said.
Chris Drake, deputy general counsel for the governor’s office, also confirmed he had received calls and would look into the matter. Drake said that there had been a recent audit of Community Allied Resources by the SEIU 1199 which may have caused some issues and confusion with employee names.
“There’s some smoke, but I don’t know if there’s a fire,” he said.
Drake also speculated that PCAs may have accidentally signed a union card during the state-mandated PCA orientation while signing various other forms. Drake noted that union membership has increased rapidly since the mandatory PCA orientations have begun, which include a half-hour “union only” session in which attendees are encouraged to join the SEIU 1199 and have the option to sign union membership cards.
The three hour mandatory PCA orientation began in January of 2015 and is part of a contract between the SIEU 1199 and the PCA Workforce Council. The council was established through an executive order by Gov. Dannel Malloy in 2011.
PCAs who sign a union card at the orientation become members of CT Home Care United, part of SEIU 1199, and then have union dues deducted from their paychecks. Although CT Home Care United is technically a union it does not have collective bargaining rights due to a 2014 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, Harris v. Quinn, which declared that private healthcare companies could not be held liable for contracts made between the state of Illinois and the SEIU.
There are approximately 20,000 PCAs working in Connecticut according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and jobs in the healthcare industry are among the fastest growing in the state. All new hires must attend the orientation program unless their employer obtains an exemption. However, even with an exemption for the full three hour course the new PCA must attend the “union only” portion.
In September the DSS launched a new website called CaringCareers.org and a $400,000 advertising campaign trying to recruit personal care assistants and other in-home health service employees.
“The union is in charge of authorization cards for its members,” Drake said. “If someone wants to de-authorize, they have to go through the union.”