Legislative Action and Voter Initiatives Pave the Way for Missouri and Wisconsin Home Care Workers' Union Representation

On May 5, the Missouri Home Care Union, which is affiliated with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), announced that state-employed in-home health care workers in Missouri voted in favor of union representation by a margin of 2,085 for the union and 1,405 against the union.  Although there were approximately 13,000 eligible voters, less than 3,500 returned their mail ballots, which means that approximately 16% chose union representation on behalf of 13,000 home health care workers.  The next day, SEIU announced that state-employed home care employees in Wisconsin voted in favor of union representation, with 1,249 in favor of the union and 705 against.  Like the vote in Missouri, the turnout in Wisconsin was low, with only 35% of the workers casting ballots and 22% selecting union representation for over 5,400 home care workers eligible to vote.

The election in Missouri was initiated by a voter-approved 2008 ballot measure, which established a statutory right for home care workers to join a union if 10% of the workers vote in favor of the union during an election.  The ballot initiative also saw the creation of the Missouri Quality Homecare Council, which will be responsible for bargaining with providers over wages, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment.  Likewise, the Wisconsin state legislature gave home care workers the right to organize in 2009, through an amendment to the state budget, provided that at least 30% of workers choose representation.  Missouri’s ballot initiative and Wisconsin’s budgetary amendment were implemented in part to reduce state home care workers’ high turnover rates.  Proponents of the legal changes argued that the high turnover was due to low wages and benefits, which, they contended, might be improved with collective bargaining rights.

The trend toward unionization of home health care workers continues.  Indeed, SEIU and AFSCME have targeted and successfully organized home health care workers in many other states, including California, Massachusetts, Illinois, and Michigan. 

This entry was written by Jennifer L. Mora.

Information contained in this publication is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or opinion, nor is it a substitute for the professional judgment of an attorney.