Homecare Workers Secure Major Victory in Fight Against Unionization

September 22, 2016, HARRISBURG, Pa.—Today, the Commonwealth Court invalidated an executive order issued by Governor Tom Wolf attempting to force unionization on thousands of home care workers. The court ruled that the executive order intruded on the private employment relationships of thousands of Pennsylvanians and that Governor Wolf exceeded his constitutional authority.

In a 4-1 ruling in J. Markham v. Thomas Wolf, the court stated, “[T]he Executive Order is de facto legislation, with provisions contrary to the existing statutory scheme. At its core, the Executive Order invades the relationship between a [Direct Care Worker] and the employer participant who receives personal services in his or her home.”

The case mirrors Smith & Lambrecht v. Wolf, currently pending before the court, in which the Fairness Center represents Dave Smith and Don Lambrecht in their suit against the governor challenging the same executive order.

“Today’s decision is a decisive victory for home care providers and recipients across Pennsylvania,” stated David Osborne, president and general counsel for the Fairness Center. “From the outset, Governor Wolf’s executive order was a blatant attempt to set up a collective bargaining agreement in violation of the law. It would have allowed unions to siphon millions of dollars each year from the paychecks of 20,000 home care workers across the state.”

Homebound with muscular dystrophy, Dave has relied on Don as his sole home care provider for 25 years. Wolf’s executive order would have effectively stripped Dave’s rights as an employer and forced Don to unionize against Dave.

Dave Smith stated:

It has been my prayer since this whole process started that somehow God would intervene in the hearts of the court allowing them to reconcile their decision in accord to the law of the state and its Constitution. I am also relieved that my caretaker and friend of 26-plus years, Don, will be able to continue by my side as well as for those who have developed similar and vital relationships. There is no union or organization that can understand the individual daily needs of both the cared for and the caretaker as they daily work through that relationship.

Don Lambrecht added: “Dave isn’t just someone I take care of, he is my friend. I hope this stops the governor’s attempts to involve me in a political game I don’t belong in and never wanted to be a part of.”

“The collaboration between the Wolf administration and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) on this executive order is well documented,” Osborne continued. “The governor’s order was a thinly veiled attempt to collect revenue for the SEIU by forcing representation on people who don’t want it and don’t need it. Today, the court recognized—and stopped—this flagrant executive overreach.”


The Fairness Center represents Dave Smith, homebound with muscular dystrophy, and Don Lambrecht, Dave’s home care worker for 25 years. In 2015, Governor Wolf signed an executive order allowing unions to force representation on workers like Don and exact dues payments—up to nearly $8 million per year—from them, while stripping individuals like Dave of their rights as employers.

In April of 2015, a Commonwealth Court judge issued a preliminary injunction halting the full enforcement of Wolf’s order.

Case Documents:

David Osborne is available for comment today. Please contact Conner Drigotas, 844.293.1001, cddrigotas@fairnesscenter.org schedule an interview.

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The Fairness Center is a nonprofit, public interest law firm offering free legal services to those facing unjust treatment from public employee union leaders. For more information visit www.FairnessCenter.org.