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Disability Groups Split on In-Home Services Initiative
by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
This article is reproduced here under special arrangement with Inclusion Daily Express Email News Service.

OLYMPIA, WASHINGTON, Oct 10, 2001 --In four weeks, voters in the state of Washington will decide on an initiative that, its supporters say, would "help seniors and people with disabilities live with independence and dignity in their own homes".

The ballot initiative, called I-775, is supported by a coalition of several -- but by no means all -- disability and senior rights groups in the state. Supporters say the measure would empower people who receive in-home personal assistance services by establishing a type of clearinghouse to connect them with a registry of trained service providers that have passed background checks.

The initiative would require performance audits of such providers with standards established by a consumer-oriented board. I-775 would also give those service providers the right to unite to negotiate for higher wages and benefits, in an effort to reduce the high rate of turnover and increase the quality of such services.

This last provision, which is proving to be the most controversial, has generated the support of several labor unions.

That has left many advocates for community living in a confusing position. While few would argue against higher pay for care-givers, many who have struggled for years to close state-run institutions have found a labor union -- the Washington Federation of State Employees -- to be their strongest opponent. And that union in the past has fought to increase state employee wages and oppose community living initiatives.

And even though I-775 would not allow workers to strike, one concern is that there are no penalties in place if providers decide to do so. Some worry that individual service recipients, who already have few options available, could have even less power because providers would have collective bargaining power.

ADAPT of the Great Northwest, along with the Washington State Labor Council and Service Employees International Union are among the groups supporting the measure.

The argument against the initiative was authored by the Washington Protection and Advocacy System.

Two of the state's largest advocacy groups, the Arc of Washington and AARP of Washington, have decided not to sign on in support of the measure.

For more information:

The text of I-775 is available on-line from the Washington State Election Information website as a downloadable PDF file.

Visit the site of Washingtonians for Quality Home Care

The Oct. 10 Seattle Post-Intelligencer on the union connection behind I-775.

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