The hum of the heating system drowned out their voices making it impossible for anyone to hear the final changes being made to a 16-page document that details recommendations to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s executive order No. 10.
The four-member Personal Care Attendant Working Group adopted a series of “options” Wednesday that will allow the state to move forward with plans to allow personal care attendants to collectively bargain for their salary and benefits. Personal Care Attendants take care of low-income disabled individuals through a Medicaid waiver system operated by the state.
The final report does not recommend a specific union or specific process for unionization. The daycare providers covered by Malloy’s executive order No. 9 have already voted to form a union. The personal care attendants have not.
The report, which no one had a copy of at the meeting, recommended that personal care attendants be covered by the State Employee Relations Act for the purposes of legislation. However, it said they would not considered state employees and would not have access to the state employee pension plan. Instead, a group would be formed to represent them in negotiations with the state.
One of the options provided in the report was to allow them to go to binding arbitration if they couldn’t reach agreement. During that arbitration a fact-finder would be appointed to “provide non-binding recommendations to the parties for settlement.”
Another option would be to provide for an interest arbitration process with no limitation on the subjects to be considered, but the results would be subject to the states regular budgetary approval process, subject to funds being made available, and subject to affirmative legislative approval.
Diane Scamtleberg, a personal care attendant for 8 years, said she wants to join a union and be able to collectively bargain for her salary. She said the union would give her the strength of numbers instead of “one person fighting for something.”
She said she trust SEIU District 1199 would be a good fit. She also likes the possibility of being able to receive health benefits that she currently doesn’t have.
“Most of us have to have a second job,” Scamtleberg said.
Cathy Ludlum, a Manchester resident with spinal muscular atrophy, who employs personal care attendants said her PCAs don’t want to be forced to join a union. She said the union would get in between the relationship she currently has with her attendants.
Currently, Ludlum can set the wages of her PCA’s at a point less than the maximum hourly benefit allowed. This allows her and consumers like her to provide for increases over a period of time.
“The Working Group is mindful that a balance needs to be struck between the unions strong interest in protecting the PCA from unreasonably low or unfair wages, and the consumers right to manage the benefit that has been conferred upon them,” the final report read.
It’s a concern shared by the Arc of CT.
“The Arc CT has one big concern right now and it is that the personal budgets of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities, who self direct funds and hire their own staff be protected so that there is no reduction or dilution in the supports an individual is able to purchase,“ Nora Duncan, Arc of CT’s executive director, said.
“The very brief conversation at today’s meeting seemed to indicate that there would be recommendation to keep this as a determining factor in collective bargaining, but that may not prove to be sufficient protection in the long run,” she added.
Ludlum said Wednesday that this is a difficult issue, but it’s far from over.
“We have not yet begun to fight,” Ludlum said.
The legislature will still need to approve the collective bargaining process for both PCAs and daycare providers.