Kasich nixes union option for Ohio care workers

FILE - In this March 24, 2015, file photo, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, R-Ohio speaks at a Politics and Eggs Breakfast with state political activist and area business leaders hosted by the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College, in Manchester, N.H. The panel commissioned by Kasich to study police and community relations in Ohio is closing in on a final set of recommendations. (AP Photo/Jim Cole, File)

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich rescinded a pair of directives issued by his predecessor on Friday that allowed independent home health care and child-care workers under contract with the state to unionize, arguing the key union benefit of health insurance coverage is now widely available elsewhere.

An executive order signed by Kasich walks back a pair of orders signed by then-Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat — one in 2007 for home health care workers, and another in 2008 for child-care workers — allowing collective bargaining.

Kasich had previously declared the Strickland orders would be “toast” under his administration.

Strickland is running for U.S. Senate in 2016 and Kasich is a potential contender for president. The pair has clashed before over union rights.

After Kasich signed an unpopular 2011 law severely restricting the collective bargaining rights of public-employee unions representing, Strickland was a leading voice in a successful effort to repeal the law in a direct vote by voters.

Kasich conceded defeat and has since taken a conciliatory stance toward labor. A contract expected to be final soon gives about 30,000 unionized state employees their first raises since 2008, which will cost about $295 million over three years.

However, Kasich spokesman Rob Nichols said Friday that the argument independent, self-employed contractors and business owners who do business with the state should be required to join a public employee union “has always been on shaky ground.”

“The governor has never supported these arrangements, but allowed them to continue on the grounds that contractors might be able to get health care from their unions if they needed it,” Nichols said. “With health care insurance more widely available, that reason is removed — one of the unions even dropped their health care coverage — so it’s didn’t make sense to continue.”

Kasich does not support the federal health care law championed by Democratic President Barack Obama that has made insurance coverage more widely available, though he has supported Medicaid expansion allowed under the plan.

Strickland argued that, besides negotiating benefits, public-employee unions representing care workers could help them address work-related grievances and give the state a hand in assuring quality of care.

In the wake of Strickland’s orders, the Service Employees International Union was chosen by secret ballot in 2007 to represent 2,056 eligible independent home health care workers, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees was chosen in 2008 to represent 8,563 eligible independent child-care workers.

The orders were codified into law in 2009, but with the caveat that the unions could no longer collect compulsory “fair share” dues at the end of the Strickland administration. He left office in January 2011 after losing a re-election bid to Kasich and membership in the two unions has since dropped.

Joyce Brewer, a veteran child-care worker in Marion County, was among those eligible workers who opted out.

“I won’t say I’m anti-union, my husband works in a union shop, my Dad was big in the union,” she said. “In no way, shape or form would I say I’m anti-union, but being self-employed I’m not sure what the union feels they can do for us.”

The 41-year-old, who has a roster of 23 children and says she cares for five at once on her busiest day, said she has health coverage through her husband’s employer.

Before leaving office, Strickland had extended the AFSCME contract for an additional four and a half years, expiring June 30 of this year. Independent home health care workers won a new contract in July 2012 that expires that same day.

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