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Meet Kris Greene, Minnesota’s Quiet Mama Bear

I met Kris Greene several years ago. We were in federal court, listening to arguments in a case she and other parents brought in an attempt to stop Governor Dayton from inviting a union to speak for them, or even worse, interfering with how they care for their disabled family members.

On the steps of the courthouse she quietly but firmly told me, “I don’t want a union getting between me and my daughter.”

As a fellow mama bear, I immediately related to Kris Greene.

Kris Greene’s daughter is a beautiful, disabled adult who will never live on her own. Taxpayers have generously and wisely supported a Medicaid program that pays a modest benefit to Kris so that her daughter can stay at home with family members and other caregivers instead being cared for by strangers or living in an institution. This gave Kris Greene peace of mind.

But when Governor Dayton and the DFL controlled all branches of the Legislature in 2013, they used their power to redirect a portion of these modest benefits intended for the disabled to powerful political allies that spend almost exclusively on DFL candidates and causes.

Dayton and the Legislature declared Kris Greene a “state employee” so that The Service Employees International Union (or “SEIU”) could “collectively bargain” against the state under the guise of improving wages and working conditions.

Most of us, including the union-friendly Minneapolis Star Tribune, could not follow the pretzel logic of the deal—since the Legislature could just pass a bill increasing PCA pay and benefits if that was really the goal. We called on the Governor to focus on helping the disabled and their caregivers rather than helping public unions to increase their revenues.

Because of union-friendly state laws, SEIU went on to win the biggest public employee labor election in Minnesota history with a scant 13% of the 27,000 eligible PCAs (about 3,500 people).

While the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled the caregivers can no longer be compelled to pay union dues or fair share fees because they are not “full-fledged public employees,” thousands of Minnesotans were enrolled by signing cards that authorized the 2014 election.

We estimate that if every person who voted “Yes” for the union is paying dues under a new 2015 contract, SEIU is taking in more than $3 million a year (the contract set dues at 3% of gross pay up to a stunning $948 a year).

The contract allows SEIU to speak for Kris Greene and other PCAs like her in Minnesota. And for now anyway, it looks as though there is no judicial relief in sight.

But Kris Greene and other PCAs around Minnesota are not giving up.

PCAs have launched a statewide decertification campaign aimed at eliminating the new collective bargaining unit. They have a steep mountain to climb: Kris and her team need to collect about 9,000 signatures to force a follow-up election, reigniting one of the state’s most controversial political issues of recent years. You can learn more about it at http://www.mnpca.org

“The Union provides no genuine services to PCAs and the Legislature and Federal Government fund these benefits, so the Union is a parasite in this situation and should be removed,” said Doug Seaton, an Edina labor attorney with the firm of Seaton, Peters and Revnew.

The plan calls for a grassroots campaign that reaches out to homecare workers by mail, phone and online. The designated website—mnpca.org—generates election authorization cards that must be received by the Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services by a December 2 deadline.

It also offers a forum for PCAs that the campaign hopes will grow into a supportive network over time.

Kris Greene and her fellow PCAs are not alone in this major endeavor. In addition to their long-time lawyer Doug Seaton, the idea has attracted grassroots support. “We will support the Minnesota PCAs every way we can, including logistical and communications help and making sure the national media is aware of this outrageous situation,” said Matt Patterson, executive director of the Center for Worker Freedom.

We all pray for healthy children but sometimes God gives us the gift and challenge of a special-needs child. I will never know what Kris Greene and her family have faced but I do know that this mockery of a union is robbing PCAs all over the state from the peace of mind that came from knowing they could direct the care and resources for their special loved one.

Let’s help Kris Greene and other PCAs get back that peace of mind.

If you are a PCA or know a PCA please forward this email and go to mnpca.org for more information on how to help.

 

 

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