Lawmakers opposed to SB 6911 are arguing the bill would take away the freedom of choice for individual home care providers when considering whether to join a union. However, union representatives say the bill will provide administrative relief when managing those providers.
SB 6911 would update the current system for managing individual health care providers.
The bill’s prime sponsor is State Sen. Annette Cleveland (D-49), and its cosponsors include State Sens. Steve Conway (D-29), Mark Miloscia (R-30) and Karen Keiser (D-33).
The measure would approve the state Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) to establish a private third-party administrator to employ the individual providers. It would also create a board to set individual provider labor rates.
During February 8 Senate floor debate, Republican lawmakers were vocal about the potential drawbacks of the bill.
State Sen John Braun (R-20) cited concern that the bill’s changes would remove the protections preventing those workers from having to join a union.
“If I am taking care of my child who is injured or disabled, I am barely getting by,” said Braun, citing the 30,000 workers employed under DSHS, many of whom provide care for their own family members.
“Under this bill, I wouldn’t get a choice to say ‘Hey, are they doing a good job for me? Do I think they are looking after my interest?’”
In the 2014 U.S. Supreme Court Harris v. Quinn ruling, the court asserted that limited public employees have the right to opt out of participating in a union if they choose. This would include individual home care providers.
Braun added that individual providers may want to keep their union dues money to instead care for their family members.
“This is about giving these people who have an enormously difficult job a choice, and they deserve a choice, the Supreme Court thought they deserve a choice, and our actions here tonight attempt to take that choice away.”
State Sen. Michael Baumgartner (R-6) agreed the Legislature needs to better consider the negative consequences of the legislation.
“I think this is one of the most important bills that we will consider this year. The underlying reason for this bill is very troubling.”
Three days prior, however, labor representatives spoke to the benefit of the bill for managing individual providers.
Lani Todd, Legislative Policy Director of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 775, told members of the Senate Ways and Means Committee: “We support this legislation because the current system for administration of payroll is broken.”
Todd said the system was created when the union had less than 2,000 workers without benefits. SEIU 775 now represents over 35,000 workers with a number of benefits including paid time off, overtime and pay scales.
Todd added the union rolled out new individual provider payment technology and overtime regulations, which has led to incorrect or delayed payments.
“We feel that this work would be transferred to an entity that has both the expertise in and narrow focus on payroll management and other administrative duties.
Unable to agree on the bill as amended, lawmakers opted to schedule the bill for a third reading on February 8. On February 10, the Senate approved the measure in a 26-21 vote, with two excused.