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Lawsuit Places Governor In The Back Pocket Of Organized Labor

The Fairness Center announced Wednesday that it has sued Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf for signing an executive order which it claim unfairly benefits organized labor.

The lawsuit from The Fairness Center, a non-profit law firm, alleges that Gov. Wolf, a Democrat, has purposely made it easier for unions to organize homecare workers in the state through his executive order. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which has close connections to the governor, looks likely to benefit the most.

“The Fairness Center represents Dave Smith and his homecare worker Don Lambrecht in their challenge to Governor Wolf’s executive order ‘unionizing’ Don and other homecare workers against Dave and other homecare recipients,” a background from the Center detailed.

“In late February, Governor Wolf issued an executive order that would allow unions to easily force representation on certain homecare (or ‘direct care’) workers who are paid through Medicaid or other state programs,” the background continued. “Under the executive order, unions will be permitted to exact dues payments — up to $21 million annually — from these homecare workers, many of whom cannot afford to pay union dues, do not want union representation, and will receive little benefit from forced representation.”

The Center also noted that the executive order is nearly identical to a 2010 executive order from then Gov. Ed Rendell, a Democrat, that eventually was rescinded after a court challenge. Gov. Wolf however claims his order helps disabled and elderly residents get quality healthcare by establishing an Advisory Group.

“The Advisory Group shall be composed of seven (7) members, who shall serve at the pleasure of the Governor,” the executive order detailed. “Commencing no later than June 30, 2015, the Advisory Group shall meet at least quarterly to study and discuss the experiences and best practices of other states that administer similar programs to provide Participant-Directed Home Care Services.”

David Osborne, who works for the Fairness Center, warns the executive order is more designed to help unions as opposed to healthcare recipients.

“In reality, the executive order doesn’t use the word ‘union,’ but the effect is the same,” Osborne noted in a statement to The Daily Caller News Foundation. “The union representing homecare workers will be required to meet with the Secretary of the Department of Human Services to hammer out terms and conditions of employment, and Wolf will actually step in to help the two sides reach agreement when they can’t.”

“Homecare workers have no choice on whether to be represented by the union, which becomes the exclusive representative for all homecare workers,” he added.

As the Commonwealth Foundation points out, the SEIU and Gov. Wolf have many close connections. The union contributed nearly $1 million to his campaign. Additionally, Mike Brunelle, who serves as a Special Assistant to the governor previously worked for two years as the National Campaigns Director for the SEIU. Prior to working for the SEIU in Washington, D.C., he spent nearly three years as the Executive Director of the SEIU Pennsylvania State Council.

“This election could be held with only 10 percent of home care workers signing up, far lower than the 30 percent threshold in the current labor law,” the Foundation noted. “Moreover, the election of this exclusive representative would be conducted by the American Arbitration Association, not the Pennsylvania Labor Relations Board which is the standard in all other cases.”

The governor’s office did not respond to requests for comment from The DCNF.

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