JEFFERSON CITY - Former State Sen. Chuck Graham, D-Columbia, condemned Wednesday the lawsuit filed by Integrity Home Care, which seeks to stop unionization of home care workers.
The lawsuit filed in July charges the union misled voters about a ballot proposal to give home care workers more powers to unionize.
Graham said that the unionization is important to Missouri home care because it provides sick or homebound people with the help they need, such as bathing, cooking and taking care of chores. Without the unionization these workers have little compensation and are often forced to work second jobs to support themselves thereby diminishing the care they can provide.
One recipient of such care, Atricia Temes of St. Louis, who suffered a stroke, said, "Because of my good home care attendant, Leroy Robinson, I can still have my independence."
Proponents of the proposal argue that because these workers cannot unionize, individuals such as Robinson do not have health care coverage or workers compensation. If home care workers cannot do their job, they argue, people like Temes are more likely to enter nursing homes.
For those on Medicare, Graham said providing home care would be cheaper for Missouri taxpayers than the cost of care in assisted living facilities.
Integrity Home Care employs around 200 of the 1,300 eligible union voters. Its owner and president Phil Melugin said he hopes there will be "a revised attempt to go about the election process in a manner that is properly governed by the appropriate rules and regulations."
He also said that the November ballot election was deceptive to the voters and that they didn't understand what they were really voting on.
Graham, on the other hand, said, "There is very strong support for the ability of people who are taking care of our most vulnerable citizens in this state to be able to come together to fight for better wages."
He cited the 75 percent vote passed by Missouri voters for the proposition and the 85 percent vote in favor of unionizing in July as indicators of this being what the majority wanted.
"The system has been broken for a very long time, it's really hard to get quality workers now because the pay is low," said disability rights advocate Bob Pund of Columbia.
While having the lawsuit dropped would be the ideal for the home care advocates, Melugin said, as of now, they're moving forward.
"We would much prefer that our employees not be forced into a union, but if they are forced into a union, then we want for there to be as fair a process as possible," Melugin said.
The case is scheduled for a court hearing in Cole County on Monday.