Editor's Column - July 2014

I’m enjoying the summer, in between rainstorms. This past month has been the wettest in years throughout the state, and the Mississippi River was past flood stage in downtown St. Paul. There are discussions about calling a special session for flood relief for many rural Minnesota communities. Let’s all hope that crops aren’t choked out by rain and that we get a few more glorious days like the Fourth of July.

News of changes in Metro Mobility policy don’t seem positive. A 30-mile trip might potentially take two and half hours (150 minutes), so you’d be wise to do what your mom said before you leave. It could be a long ride if you didn’t take a pre-trip bathroom break. Still, Metro Mobility is announcing that the average ride time will be shorter than previously. One of the ways they’re going to streamline service is to impose new rules on no-shows and requiring a call to cancel the return ride of a no-show.

It’s being said that on June 30 the Supreme Court dealt a blow to public employee unions in the ruling on Harris vs. Quinn, which concerned the unionization of healthcare workers. In this case, Pamela Harris, a Personal Assistant (PA), didn’t want union support, and didn’t want to pay the required “fair share dues” (also called “fair play fees”) required of all employees in a government employee union. So she claimed a First Amendment violation, saying she was being forced to pay union dues as a “quasi-government employee.” Justice Alito said that PAs like Harris, even though they are paid by the state, are not really government employees. Alito said that Harris was only paid through a state government program (Medicaid), and the client, a third-party, was the real employer.

There is concern that other public employee unions,like public school teachers, firefighters, police and many other government employees will lose members and eventually will lose the ability to negotiate, with insufficient funding for negotiators. It’s another case where the local impact seems both positive and negative, especially with our home care workers not being unionized at this point. It does seem unfair for employees to reap the benefits of a union negotiation without having to pay their “fair share” of union dues. And on the other side of the coin, what if union negotiating efforts don’t bring any pay increases or new benefits and you’ve been paying your union dues? We keep finding ourselves having public debates about individual rights vs. common public good.

The past month has seen a couple moves forward on the Community First Service and Supports program. The Minnesota Department of Human Services is developing three sub-committees of stakeholders to develop procedures for informing the recipients of CFSS as well as healthcare agencies. The sub-committees will: 1) develop information for upcoming changes 2) decide on best ways to spread information 3) set up processes to ensure uninterrupted service. One of these groups also helped with two DHS requests for proposals, already released; one for Fiscal Managing Organizations that would manage the funds for clients who choose to employ and manage their own workers and other needs. The second will enlist five pilot vendors to help design and implement the new Consultation Services. After the five pilot vendors are up and running more consultation vendors would be expected to begin doing the services.

Send in your nominations for the Charlie Smith Award. Remember to save the date of Nov.7 for the banquet. Have a great month and enjoy those hours of summer when they come along.

 

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