Missouri in-home care workers opt for union representation

Wednesday, May 5, 2010 | 4:49 p.m. CDT; updated 4:56 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, May 5, 2010

JEFFERSON CITY — In-home care providers who help disabled Missouri residents with daily activities such as bathing and cooking have voted to be represented by a new union.

Election results released Wednesday by the state labor department show the unionization effort passed with about 60 percent of the vote, 2,085 to 1,405. Once those results are officially certified, the Missouri Home Care Union would represent more than 12,000 workers who provide care to low-income residents covered by Medicaid.

"Missouri home-care tenants are looking forward to getting into negotiations with the state as soon as possible to work to establish a more stable work force, to strengthen the quality of home care and allow consumers to get the assistance they need," said union spokesman Joe Lawrence.

He said home-care providers currently lack health insurance or workers' compensation coverage — two benefits the union will be seeking to secure.

The unionization vote was authorized under a November 2008 ballot initiative approved by Missouri voters. That measure created the Missouri Quality Homecare Council and gave it authority to negotiate with in-home care providers over wages and benefits.

The Service Employees International Union poured $1.7 million into the ballot initiative. It then joined with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees to create the new Missouri Home Care Union.

The Missouri union said home care workers in more than 10 other states, including in neighboring Illinois and Iowa, also have formed unions.

A Missouri union election initially was held last summer, with the effort appearing to pass 2,729 to 499. But the election results were tossed out by a judge after a lawsuit alleged various procedural flaws.

In a December ruling, Cole County Senior Judge Byron Kinder ordered a new election and ruled that the Missouri Quality Homecare Council had violated the state open-meetings law. But Kinder rejected the lawsuit's assertion that the council was prohibited from acting because the legislature had not appropriated any money for it.

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