Today’s News & Commentary — May 27, 2019
The Department of Health and Human Services finalized a rule that will prevent independent provider (IP) homecare workers paid by Medicaid from deducting union dues from their paychecks. SEIU, which represents around 500,000 homecare workers across the country, announced that it will challenge the new rule in court; and five state attorneys general are suing as well, claiming that the Trump Administration is “trying to ‘reinterpret the Medicaid Act in service of anti-union objectives.’” The Chicago Sun-Times penned an editorial condemning this rule, arguing that it “is insidiously discriminatory in that it targets low-wage workers in a field, home health care, that is dominated by women and minorities.” Andrea Dudley, a home care worker and union member in California, described the new rule as “a blatant attack on us.”
Over 3,000 nursing home staff in Connecticut, represented by SEIU 1199, have called off a threat to strike following Governor Ned Lamont’s announcement of increased Medicaid reimbursement rates for nursing homes and a new contract agreement with a large nursing home company. Under the new contract, workers will receive significant wage increases as well as new healthcare, training, and vacation benefits. Rob Baril, president of District 1199, said, “this is a major victory for our union members . . . we are confident that we’ll be able to settle all pending contracts for our members in the near future.”
In 1967, Marilyn Webb dropped out of a PhD program at the University of Chicago after two professors in her department sexually harassed and assaulted her. Fifty years later, Webb wrote to the university president “and asked him if the university could correct this injustice.” The university agreed, allowing Webb to submit a dissertation; and Webb will now receive her PhD at the University’s Commencement next month. While UChicago agreed to right this past wrong, UChicago and other prominent universities are working actively to undermine the rights of present-day graduate student workers. Graduate student workers at schools across the country — such as the University of Connecticut — have won key protections against harassment and discrimination in their union contracts. However, the University of Chicago has refused to recognize and bargain with its graduate student union. In response, student workers at UChicago voted to authorize a strike last week. Meanwhile, Harvard is trying to exclude protections against discrimination and harassment from its contract with the Harvard Graduate Students Union. The Boston Globe recently reported on Harvard’s prolonged institutional failure in addressing sexual harassment; specifically, the university failed to respond when around twenty women reported a prominent professor’s harassment and abuse. Ege Yumusak, a graduate student worker in Harvard’s philosophy department, noted that, “the power relationships in academia are difficult. Your supervisor has control over your whole career.” Thus, civil rights protections in a union contract are crucial for correcting these power imbalances and creating a safe and equitable work environment.
Around 8,000 Amazon employees signed a letter calling on the company to “release a climate plan including setting emissions-cuts goals, transitioning away from fossil fuels, and prioritizing climate impact in business decisions.” At a recent shareholder meeting, Amazon rejected this proposal. Amazon Employees for for Climate Justice, the worker organization that penned the letter to the company, promised further advocacy. Member Emily Cunningham said, “The climate crisis is not going anywhere, and neither are we.”