Minnesota mother Kris Greene just wanted to take care of her disabled daughter. For years she was able to do so unencumbered, before the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) moved in. SEIU unionized personal care assistants back in 2014. Personal care assistants or PCAs, are unlicensed healthcare providers who work in the home and tend the elderly, the disabled, and those who are sick or often injured family members. In Minnesota nearly 27,000 PCAs provide these services with government subsidies to help cover the costs.
SEIU successfully lobbied the state legislature in 2013 to codify PCAs as “government employees” since they receive Medicaid funding. But this is simply inaccurate – these workers are privately hired, and are often just family members caring for their loved ones. Most are using the available Medicaid funds to offset the cost of their time and effort in providing care.
Once the legislative change was made, the following year the union strong-armed a vote on unionization through shady mailer tactics. While 27,000 PCA workers were eligible to vote, only about 5,800 (21%) filled out election cards. The motion to unionize passed by 3,543 to 2,306 votes, the result of low turnout. To put that in perspective, 13% of PCAs forced all 27,000 home health care workers to join the SEIU. Why would the SEIU unionize home care workers in Minnesota? The answer – membership dues.
It is no secret that unions are declining. Union participation rates are down from the overall peak rate of 34.8% in 1954 to 11.1% today. Public sector unions are slightly stronger, with a 35.7% participation rate. As a result, union dues are falling. Dues are a union’s lifeblood, funding union bosses’ six figure salaries and providing contributions to political campaigns. For the 2016 election cycle, SEIU has spent over $10 million in political contributions and over $20 million in outside spending.
SEIUs takeover of home care workers in Minnesota granted the union exclusive right to collectively bargain the state legislature. What have working mothers like Ms. Greene gotten with their forced union representation? Not much, aside from being forced to fund the SEIU.
SEIU claims that their contract with the state legislature is a victory for PCA rights, granting increased pay and paid leave. While the contract did raise the pay floor from $10.75 to $11 this year, the average home care worker in Minnesota already earned $11.87 as of May 2015, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics – a full dollar more than the national average for this occupation.
As for paid leave, because many patients require round-the-clock care, many workers are never even able to take advantage of the paid time off. Worse, the contract mandates workers’ pay 3% of their earnings as dues to the union, up to $948 a year. The dues negate any benefits of a potential wage increase, and is exacerbated by the work hours restriction which may result in a pay cut for many PCAs. SEIU’s contract restricts the work week to 40 hours, and mandates an orientation course for workers. This bureaucratic red tape restricts worker rights, and makes it difficult for mothers like Ms. Greene to take care of their families.
No worker should ever have their right of voluntary association violated, and be forced to pay dues to an organization against their well – let alone to a union that takes Medicaid funds intended for society’s most vulnerable and spends it on lobbying, political advertising, and union salaries. This is why Ms. Greene is spearheading the fight to decertify the union.
Decertification is the process in which workers hold a new election on union membership. To hold a vote, the NLRB requires 30% of workers in the bargaining unit to authorize an election. Once the signatures are validated, the election is held 60 days later. Greene has until December 2nd to collect the 9,000 signatures to initiate a decertification vote. She and other allied home care workers have created their own website, MNPCA.org to assist in collecting the necessary signatures. If Greene’s campaign is successful, and workers vote to decertify the union, it will be the largest union decertification vote in state history and one of the largest ever in the United States.