Home care union advocates seek support

Thursday, September 10, 2009 | 6:59 p.m. CDT; updated 7:07 p.m. CDT, Thursday, September 10, 2009

JEFFERSON CITY — Former state Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, condemned a lawsuit filed by Integrity Home Care seeking to stop unionization of home-care workers.

The lawsuit, filed in July, said the union misled voters in the November election on Proposition B and the July vote among home care workers to unionize.

The proposition established the Council on Home Care Quality and allowed home-care workers to unionized by majority vote.

Graham said unionization is important to Missouri home-care workers because they provide needed help to  sick or homebound people with such activities as bathing, cooking and taking care of chores. Without the unionization, he said, these workers have little compensation and are often forced to work second jobs to support themselves, thereby diminishing the care they can provide.

Care recipient Atricia Temes of St. Louis, who suffered a stroke, said, "because of my good home-care attendant, Leroy Robinson, I can still have my independence." Because of an injunction these workers cannot unionize and individuals such as Robinson do not have health care coverage or workers compensation.

For those on Medicare or HealthNet — the Missouri Medicaid option — Graham said providing home care would be cheaper for Missouri taxpayers than the cost of care in assisted living facilities.

Integrity Home Care employs around 200 of the 1,300 eligible union voters. Its owner and president, Phil Melugin, said he hopes there will be "a revised attempt to go about the election process in a manner that is properly governed by the appropriate rules and regulations."

He also said that the November ballot election was deceptive to the voters and that they didn't understand what they were really voting on.

Graham, on the other hand, said, "there is very strong support for the ability of people who are taking care of our most vulnerable citizens in this state to be able to come together to fight for better wages."

He cited the 75 percent support by Missouri voters for the proposition and the 85 percent vote in favor of unionizing in July as indicators of what the majority want.

"The system has been broken for a very long time," said disability rights advocate Bob Pund of Columbia. "It's really hard to get quality workers now because the pay is low."

According to home care advocates, having the lawsuit dropped would be the ideal situation. Melugin said, as of now, they're moving forward.

"We would much prefer that our employees not be forced into a union, but if they are forced into a union, then we want for there to be as fair a process as possible," Melugin said.

The case will go before Cole County Judge Byron Kinder on Monday.

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Charles Dudley Jr September 10, 2009 | 7:22 p.m.

The major complaint I hear on a daily basis is Home Health Care workers who do not know how to actually do their jobs. They do not know how to clean nor show alot of incentive to clean and to work.

I hear they sit around talking on their cell phones,watching TV or playing on their client's computers. That is not what their employers hire them to do.

Maybe by Unionizing this can be rectified but first you have to get the quality of employee that wants to be there and wants to do the job right.

Yes there are some dam great and fine workers in this field but they are few and very far between and often over worked and under payed.

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