Published Sunday, May 30 in the Toledo Blade
Gov. John Kasich this month quietly stripped 10,000 Ohio in-home health-care workers of their right to belong to unions. That move marks the latest offensive in the governor’s troubling campaign against labor rights.
In 2007, former Gov. Ted Strickland granted independent home health-care workers the right to bargain collectively with state government. He extended the right to home child-care providers the following year. The policy applied to workers who are reimbursed for care through state programs such as Medicaid.
Such employees contract with Ohio agencies to provide care. But because they are not considered direct employees of the state, they aren’t eligible for the same benefits and bargaining rights as public employees.
Mr. Kasich vowed to rescind Mr. Strickland’s policy during his 2010 gubernatorial campaign. He claimed that independent care providers have no right to collective bargaining with the state because they aren’t state employees.
Home care workers provide vital services to disabled, elderly, and the youngest Ohioans. They should be entitled to the same opportunities to address work-related concerns and bargain collectively as public employees and other care providers. The governor shouldn’t strip these workers of their rights based on a technicality.
In-home child-care providers have made gains in their contracts since they got the right to unionize. Joe Weidner, a spokesman for the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, which represents child-care providers, told The Blade’s editorial page: “Before they unionized, their contract with the state was take it or leave it.”
Democratic state senators plan to introduce legislation that would effectively undo the governor’s repeal. It’s unlikely to gain approval by Republican lawmakers who control the General Assembly.
Mr. Kasich says home health-care workers no longer need access to health insurance through their unions because of recently expanded opportunities to obtain insurance through the Affordable Care Act and state Medicaid expansion. Yet plans on the health insurance marketplace often are more costly to workers than employer-subsidized plans and don’t offer the same benefits.
Workers’ continued access to Obamacare is hardly guaranteed. Governor Kasich has called for repeal of the Affordable Care Act, even as he relies on the law to pay for Ohio’s Medicaid expansion. A case before the U.S. Supreme Court threatens to dismantle federal subsidies for Obamacare recipients in many states, including Ohio.
The governor evidently has not fully learned the lesson of the controversial Senate Bill 5, which would have severely restricted public unions’ bargaining power. Mr. Kasich signed the bill into law in 2011, but Ohioans overwhelmingly voted to repeal it that year.
To his credit, Mr. Kasich has said he doesn’t intend to bring extreme “right to work” legislation to Ohio, which has decimated unions in other states. Yet the governor’s position on labor rights often remains troublesome.
Mr. Kasich has again chosen political expediency over the welfare of thousands of Ohio workers. If he makes his long-anticipated entrance into the presidential race, that will be a valid topic for discussion.