Home care workers vote to unionize

In a controversial election, home care workers who are paid through state programs voted to join the New England Health Care Employees Union, District 1199, SEIU, by a vote of 1,228 to 365. The union announced the vote totals Thursday.

The vote follows an executive order Gov. Dannel P. Malloy issued in September, allowing the home care workers to unionize. The union can now represent them in informal discussions with the state, but cannot engage in collective bargaining on their behalf. A legislative proposal to give the workers collective bargaining rights failed to make it out of committee earlier this month, but is expected to be revived before the session ends in May.

Supporters of giving the workers collective bargaining rights have argued that it would allow the workers, who earn low wages and do not receive benefits or paid time off, to join together to seek more money for the programs that fund their services, and could make the workforce more stable.

Opponents say workers could end up worse off if they have to pay union dues and the state doesn’t put more money into the programs. Some have also expressed concern that having a union could get in the way of the nature of the state’s home care programs, which emphasize control by the person receiving services.

The union would not represent home care workers who work for agencies.

Malloy also issued a similar executive order allowing unionization by child care providers who receive funds through the state’s Care 4 Kids program. The daycare providers voted to unionize in December. Critics have filed two lawsuits challenging the executive orders, arguing that Malloy overstepped his authority in issuing them.