Missouri home care workers prepare for collective bargaining

A home care worker with an elderly patient.

Jefferson City – In a victory in their four-year struggle to improve their working conditions and strengthen the quality of care for the people they serve, the 13,000-member Missouri Home Care Union cleared the last legal obstacle delaying negotiations on their first contract with the state.

The milestone came last month when the Missouri Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal to a lower court decision upholding a 2010 election in which the state’s home care workers voted to form a union.

The ruling represents the legal end of the line for the union’s opponents who had sought to invalidate the results of the election and obstruct collective bargaining on behalf of the workers who provide vital home care to the state’s seniors and people with disabilities.

Home care workers perform essential services for their consumers such as bathing, cooking, cleaning and emergency response.  They’re also instrumental in curtailing costs the state would incur in nursing home expenditures if home care wasn’t available.

“This ruling is a huge relief to people like me who rely on home care providers to help us live independently and stay out of nursing homes,” said home care consumer Edna Austin of Crystal City. “The union will give them the resources they need to improve their working conditions, reducing turnover and providing more security for the consumers that hire them.”

The state’s home care workers won the right to form a union after Missouri voters approved the Missouri Quality Home Care Act passed 2008 by a resounding 75 percent majority.   Since the act’s inception, home care providers around the state have worked to build a union that will protect consumer-directed, in-home care programs from cuts, and ensure providers working in those programs have the wages and training that will allow the programs to thrive and grow. Consumer-directed programs allow seniors and people with disabilities and individuals to live and receive care in their own homes from an attendant of their own choosing.

“Since 2008, Missouri voters and Missouri in-home care providers have spoken repeatedly in favor of allowing providers to organize themselves to protect the consumers who rely on these programs and improve training and wages,” said Elinor Simmons of Castle Point.   “Thousands of caregivers are vindicated now that the courts have recognized the validity of the democratic choice they made to be represented by the Missouri Home Care Union.”

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