I remember it clearly. It was a sunny day, just after Memorial Day in 2003. My husband, Tom, and I were at our son Greg’s home. We were waiting to have a family dinner, but Greg was unusually late coming home from work. Then we got the call that is every parent’s worst nightmare.
Greg had been in an accident. His injuries were catastrophic.
Everything — everything — changed in that moment. Greg, a father himself, was paralyzed from the chest down. Tasks he previously took for granted, like tying his shoes or turning over in bed, required assistance. For a fiercely independent young man, it was maddening and painful.
Greg endured months of rigorous rehab, all while helping to mend the psychological and emotional wounds suffered by his sons. Because aid for him was now essential, he had to learn to use an entirely new set of resources and navigate endless bureaucracies funded through a state program.
His spirit was heroic, and his resolve was dauntless. He sacrificed much, choosing to forgo a fully-accessible home so that he could financially prepare for his sons’ educations. Every obstacle he faced was overcome for one reason: it was necessary. Remaining a father to his two young sons, and providing a home and life for his family, was necessary. Perseverance was necessary.
Today, Greg works from home as a software engineer. Next year, one son will graduate from college, and the other will begin his service in the U.S. Navy. While Greg still needs help with daily care, he has succeeded at the most important task that we parents face. He provides a loving home, education, and parental guidance for his children.
Getting in and out of bed, dressing, meal prep, and almost all other daily tasks require assistance. For 13 years, Greg has had an aide for 40 hours of every week. Tom and I take turns going to Greg’s house in the evenings. We rarely spend the night under the same roof.
This isn’t a job for us. This is caring for our son. This is necessary.
That’s why we were shocked that anyone would take steps to profit from our family. But that’s exactly what happened when Gov. Tom Wolf signed an executive order enabling and encouraging a union to define the rules for our relationship with our son.
Like us, most of Pennsylvania’s 20,000 home care workers care for a family member or close friend. We learned of this scheme by mail when we were asked to elect the United Home Care Workers of Pennsylvania — a partnership of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) to represent us against our “employer.”
To represent us against our son.
Mr. Wolf went out of his way to share our names and contact information, without our consent or request, with those unions. The governor further stacked the deck by lowering the standard participation requirements for union elections. In the end, the union won with just 13 percent of home care workers voting “yes.”
I’m not opposed to unions, but forced representation? How could a union possibly improve our family’s situation? So far, the only “improvement” they propose is to limit when and how we care for our own son.
What’s in it for the union? As much as $8 million in dues annually. It’s a case of political payback, pure and simple.
AFCSME and SEIU were two of the largest contributors to Mr. Wolf’s gubernatorial campaign, donating nearly $1.5 million between them.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette called the arrangement “an example of politics at its worst.”
The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania recently recognized the move for what it was — blatant government overreach. They struck down the order, saying it “invades the relationship” between home care workers and recipients like us and Greg. In response, Mr. Wolf has doubled-down, appealing the decision to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
A ruling in the governor’s favor could limit our time caring for our son, possibly reducing the quality and raising the cost of his care. But Mr. Wolf is too focused on swelling the coffers and ranks of his political allies to realize his “solution” is yet another obstacle — an unnecessary one that he should stop trying to force on us.