August 22, 2019
ATTORNEY GENERAL RAOUL OPPOSES FEDERAL RULE CREATING BARRIERS FOR UNION DUES DEDUCTIONS FOR HOME HEALTH WORKERS
Chicago — Attorney General Kwame Raoul today joined a coalition of six attorneys general in a lawsuit opposing the federal government’s rule that undermines workers in Illinois’ Home Services Program, and hundreds of workers nationwide. The new federal rule creates barriers for states to deduct employee benefits and union dues from workers’ paychecks, making it harder for workers to defend their workplace rights and provide quality home and community based care to those in need.
“This rule directly interferes with the rights of Illinois home health workers, who are permitted to have union dues deducted from their wages by Illinois law,” Raoul said. “It is a gross violation of workers’ rights that creates an unnecessary barrier to paying union dues, which hinders workers’ ability to collectively bargain. Allowing workers to unionize creates a stable workforce, benefiting vulnerable Illinois residents who rely on the Home Services Program for quality, in-home care.”
In Illinois, workers in the Home Services Program – personal assistants – provide services to disabled patients, which allow them to remain at home and prevent unnecessary institutionalization. Personal assistants have the right to collectively bargain for better wages, benefits, and training, which results in more stable, quality home care for beneficiaries. These workers are paid with state Medicaid funds. The federal rule both interferes with the ability to deduct payments from homecare workers’ paychecks for worker benefits obtained through collective bargaining, like health care coverage or voluntary union dues, and it directly violates Illinois’ law that provides for and permits these deductions. This rule would disrupt well-established collective bargaining relationships authorized by state labor laws.
On May 6, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued a final rule to reinterpret payment requirements. The rule was primarily based on a supposed need to “eliminate a state’s ability to divert Medicaid payments away from providers,” which would have the effect of no longer allowing union dues to be deducted from personal assistant paychecks. The federal government provided no evidence to suggest that Medicaid payments were being inappropriately diverted.
This lawsuit builds on Attorney General Raoul’s efforts to fight unlawful employment practices. In May, the Illinois General Assembly passed legislation, initiated by Raoul, to establish the Worker Protection Unit within the office of the Attorney General to better protect Illinois workers from wage theft and other unlawful employment practices. The measure is currently on the governor’s desk awaiting final approval. In April, Raoul testified before the Congressional House Appropriations Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Subcommittee about the wage theft crisis and the importance of having the federal government as a partner in these efforts.
Joining Raoul in the lawsuit are the attorneys general of California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Washington.