SEIU Challenges Trump Ban on Payroll Deductions for Home Care Workers

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

The Service Employees will legally challenge what they term a “racist” Trump administration ban on payroll deductions approved by home care workers, most of them African-American women and Latinas.

The ban, announced May 1 by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMMS) – which is headed by an acolyte of GOP Vice President Mike Pence – says there may be no deductions from the workers’ paychecks for “third parties.”

That means home care workers, whether covered by union contracts or working for other employers, won’t have dues or anything else – from bus pass subsidies to health insurance premiums -- deducted, as of July 1.

The ban would affect thousands of workers, notably those SEIU and other unions organized among the nation’s 800,000-plus home care workers. The home care workers are already among the lowest-paid workers in the U.S., but unionized home care workers earn substantially more.

“Trump administration to home care workers: Here’s your poverty-level wage. Now let us tell you how to spend it,” the union headlined its announcement of their planned lawsuit against Trump’s CMMS and its anti-deductions rule.

“Women who care for seniors and people with disabilities will challenge Trump administration’s racist rule in court and defend their choice to stick together in their union,” SEIU added.

“The rule wrongly targets independent provider home care workers who, without a union, are faced with a physically and emotionally demanding job with a median wage of just $10.49 an hour, no healthcare, no paid sick time and no benefits,” the union said.

The Trump administration’s CMMS rule never mentions the words “union” or “dues” or “checkoff,” a reading of it shows. It just says the workers cannot authorize diverting part of their paychecks to unnamed “third parties.” CMMS said it received several thousand comments on the rule, but didn’t characterize them or recognize opposition from workers and unions.

SEIU says that “diversion” is just a right-wing dodge.

“The rule is the latest strategic attempt by anti-worker special interest groups to silence the growing number of women in the home care workforce and deny them the ability to choose to support their union with their wages” just as other unionists do. “Its intent is to undermine working women’s right to advocate for better training, higher wages, and basic benefits — which are all crucial to ensuring quality home care for millions of Americans.”

“SEIU members plan to challenge this racist rule in court. Ninety percent of home care workers are women, more than 50% are women of color and one in four are immigrants. The administration’s attempt to silence home care workers reflects a long history in the United States of double-standard policies that deny working people of color like home care workers and domestic workers basic legal protections and rights, including protections for minimum wage and overtime pay, and the right to organize and form strong unions.”   

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Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Uber Drivers Deserve Legal Rights and Protections

By Kathleen Mackey
USW Intern

In an advisory memo released May 14, the U.S. labor board general counsel’s office stated that Uber drivers are not employees for the purposes of federal labor laws.

Their stance holds that workers for companies like Uber are not included in federal protections for workplace organizing activities, which means the labor board is effectively denying Uber drivers the benefits of forming or joining unions.

Simply stating that Uber drivers are just gig workers does not suddenly undo the unjust working conditions that all workers potentially face, such as wage theft, dangerous working conditions and  job insecurity. These challenges are ever-present, only now Uber drivers are facing them without the protection or resources they deserve. 

The labor board’s May statement even seems to contradict an Obama-era National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruling that couriers for Postmates, a job very similar to Uber drivers’, are legal employees.

However, the Department of Labor has now stated that such gig workers are simply independent contractors, meaning that they are not entitled to minimum wages or overtime pay.

While being unable to unionize limits these workers’ ability to fight for improved pay and working conditions, independent contractors can still make strides forward by organizing, explained executive director of New York Taxi Workers Alliance Bhairavi Desai.

“We can’t depend solely on the law or the courts to stop worker exploitation. We can only rely on the steadfast militancy of workers who are rising up everywhere,” Desai said in a statement. 

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