SEIU Illinois files unfair labor claim on home-care work
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — The union representing Illinois home-care workers who must abide by new rules limiting overtime hours filed an unfair labor practices charge Friday against Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration.
In its complaint, SEIU Healthcare Illinois argues that the state Department of Human Services should have negotiated overtime rules with it before they took effect on May 1.
Rauner’s office countered that Human Services isn’t required to discuss changes in federal law. A Human Services spokeswoman chastised the union, likening the complaint to attempting to salvage a system that endorses “slave labor.”
SEIU, which represents about 24,000 workers who make $13 an hour caring for disabled people in their homes to save the higher cost of nursing-home care, submitted the claim to the Illinois Labor Relations Board.
Terri Harkin, vice president in charge of home health care for SEIU, said Rauner is using the policy as leverage to extract concessions in negotiations to replace the union’s contract with the state, which expired June 30.
“In unilaterally implementing the new cap and throwing the system of care in disarray, the Rauner administration has violated the law,” Harkin said in a statement. “But this is not just illegal policy — it hurts people with disabilities.”
A Jan. 1 federal rule decreed that home-care workers on the clock more than 40 hours a week be paid time-and-a-half for overtime. Rauner, managing a state with a multibillion-dollar deficit and no approved budget plan, ordered a limit to overtime. Human Services said additional workers would have to be brought into homes where the caretaker worked more than 40 hours.
Manko said the policy doesn’t ban or cap overtime, but rather it requires workers to justify the hours they report on the job. She said other state agencies and private-sector employers follow such policies. Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly said the government is not required to negotiate over changes in federal law; the union said it is required and the basis for the labor complaint.
The caretakers say it’s impossible to find people to do the sometimes-unpleasant work, part-time, for $13 an hour. An Associated Press analysis last month found that caretakers — usually family members — report working up to 18 hours a day. Before Jan. 1, those hours were paid at straight time.
Manko, who previously suggested it’s fraudulent for workers to claim they are on the clock three-quarters of every day, said she was surprised by SEIU’s labor claim.
“How can SEIU allow its members to work 90, 115 hours a week?” Manko said. “In any other profession, that would be called slave labor. Yet the very people arguing against the overtime rule are the ones racking up extraordinary hours.”
Melissa Mlynski, executive director of the Illinois Labor Relations Board, said the complaint will be assigned to an investigator who will interview people from both sides. It could take up to three months. Mlynski then would decide whether the issues presented require a hearing before an administrative law judge.
Contact Political Writer John O’Connor at https://twitter.com/apoconnor. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/john-oconnor.