Senate approves expensive bill circumventing Supreme Court decision on workers’ rights

Legislation passed today by the Washington State Senate creates a new private entity outside of state government to pay individual provider home care workers. But it comes at a significant cost to taxpayers, workers and transparency, said Sen. Joe Fain, who voted against the bill. After taking up the bill late Wednesday night into the early morning hours to vote down a series of amendments, the full Senate passed it by a 26-21 margin.

“Home care providers provide a critically important role of caring for some of our state’s most vulnerable citizens, most often their family members,” said Fain, who serves on the Senate Health Care Committee, which reviewed the legislation. “The highest court in the country affirmed their right to decide whether or not they want to participate in a union in order to be compensated for caring for their family. That’s a choice the Legislature should not take away.”

Currently the state Department of Health and Human Services pays wages to the state’s 35,000 care providers. Creating a private party to serve as their employer would remove their right to choose whether or not to utilize union representation, which was granted in the 2014 U.S. Supreme Court Harris vs. Quinn ruling. The change would also exempt contract negotiations from public disclosure.

Beyond the policy, state fiscal analysts also project the legislation to cost an additional $26 million per two-year budget cycle, to do the same work DSHS already undertakes.

“Spending tens of millions of dollars without reaching more people or offering better services is exactly the type of thing that frustrates taxpayers with government,” said Fain. “That money could be much better spent on providing respite care for families needing help or employment supports for people with developmental disabilities who want to work but need some more help.”

The bill now moves to the House of Representative for its consideration as lawmakers are on day 34 of a 60-day legislative session.