August 07, 2018

Mass. Congressional Delegation Urges CMS to Halt Proposal to Restrict Union Dues Payments

Lawmakers Concerned Rule is Latest Attempt by Trump Admin. to Undermine Workers' Rights

Text of the letter (PDF)

Washington, DC - The Massachusetts congressional delegation, including United States Senators Elizabeth Warren and Edward J. Markey, and Representatives Richard Neal, James McGovern, Michael Capuano, Stephen F. Lynch, Niki Tsongas, William Keating, Joseph P. Kennedy III, Katherine Clark and Seth Moulton, today sent a letter to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Seema Verma expressing concern with CMS's proposed rule to restrict home care workers' ability to voluntarily have union dues automatically deducted from their paychecks.  The CMS proposal could erode the ability of hundreds of thousands of home care workers in Massachusetts and across the country to exercise their rights to participate in union organizing and collective bargaining.

Last month, CMS issued its "Reassignment of Medicaid Provider Claims" proposed rule, which could prevent independent home care workers whose wages are paid with Medicaid dollars from choosing to have union dues automatically deducted from their paychecks.  45,000 individual home care workers in Massachusetts, along with hundreds of thousands more around the country, are represented by unions, and many use automatic dues deduction for the sake of convenience.

In their letter to Administrator Verma, the lawmakers highlighted the particular importance of collective bargaining to the home care workforce, which is made up disproportionately of women and workers of color and has historically been excluded from wage, safety, and retirement protections.  The lawmakers also criticized the rule as needlessly diminishing the collective bargaining rights of home care workers. 

"The right to form unions and to bargain collectively for better wages and a fundamental step toward ensuring these workers have dignity and a meaningful voice on the job that they have been unjustly denied for far too long," the lawmakers wrote.  "The proposal to prohibit these workers from requesting that union dues be deducted from their paychecks--money that they have earned with their own hard work--is insulting, counterproductive, and hard to view as anything other than an attempt to roll back home care workers' collective bargaining rights."

In addition, the lawmakers pointed out that CMS's proposal, which would restrict employees' control over voluntary payments to a union, contradicts the argument made by the Trump Administration in the Janus v. AFSCME case, that workers should maintain total control over how the money in their paychecks is spent.  "The Trump administration's positions in Janus and in this proposal therefore seem completely contradictory, but for one aspect: they propose curtailing the ability of hard-working Americans to join together and bargain collectively for better wages, benefits, and conditions," the lawmakers continued. 

The lawmakers called on Administrator Verma to refrain from proceeding with this rulemaking and interfering in home care workers' ability to voluntarily pay union dues in the manner that they choose.