It’s time to vote again on the personal care attendant union
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 Gov. Mark Dayton from inviting a government 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 mom, 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 offers a modest benefit so that the Greenes’ daughter can thrive at home instead of being cared for by strangers or living in an institution. This gave Kris Greene and her husband peace of mind.
Despite heartfelt objections by personal care attendants (PCAs) like Kris Greene, the Minnesota Legislature in 2013 voted to allow a portion of these modest benefits intended for caregivers of the disabled to be redirected to a powerful political ally. Home-based Choice PCAs were declared “state employees” so that the Service Employees International Union (or “SEIU”) could “collectively bargain” against the state under the guise of improving wages and working conditions.
In reality, the 2013 law that declared PCAs “state employees” was just a cynical ploy to give SEIU new revenue to spend on their own political agendas and candidates— all at the expense of the disabled, PCAs, and the taxpayer.
SEIU went on to win the biggest public employee labor election in Minnesota history with a scant 13 percent of the 27,000 eligible PCAs (about 3,500 people). PCAs from all political stripes are upset about this. It just does not seem right. If nothing else, most PCAs were not even aware of the mail-in ballot election. The ballot, by the way, looked like junk mail.
So even though they are just as tired of elections as any Minnesotan and very ready to focus on the holidays, PCAs are standing up to the SEIU and demanding another union vote. MNPCA, a coalition of PCAs and concerned advocates, has launched an effort to decertify the SEIU using a website and Facebook page called MNPCA.org.
“The Legislature and Congress fund and authorize these benefits, so the union adds nothing in this context and should be removed,” Doug Seaton, the PCAs’ labor attorney said at a recent press conference.
“Doing so,” added Catherine Hunter, a mom and PCA in Burnsville, “will protect the PCA program for families caring for a disabled family member and end the SEIU’s interference in pursuit of its own agenda.”
To be successful, MNPCA has to demonstrate a “showing of interest” to call for a new election by obtaining signatures from 30 percent of the bargaining unit. Yet the lists of PCAs provided by state agencies responsible for the information are filled with bad addresses and people who have never heard of the program. Also, the SEIU and state began negotiating a new contract almost a year before the current one expires. If the Dayton administration completes that process before MNPCA gets a new election, the decertification effort will be defeated. All their hard work will be lost.
With the Dec. 2 deadline to file for a new election rapidly approaching, MNPCA filed a lawsuit against three state agencies in Ramsey County Court. Judge Robert Awsumb ruled in favor of the PCAs, ordering the state to turn over the data crucial to their effort. Once PCAs have an up-to-date list, we are confident that the SEIU will be voted out by a wide margin. MNPCA has already received signed election cards from thousands of PCAs across the state but many more are needed.
Unfortunately, as of this writing, the state has failed to comply with the judge’s order. MNPCA has asked the judge for help but as we await his decision, the coalition has to work with the list it has, however flawed, and the resources it has left, however limited.
If you are a home-based PCA and want to join Kris Greene, Catherine Hunter and thousands of other PCAs across the state in protecting the Choice PCA program from the SEIU, please visit MNPCA.organd mail in your election authorization card today.
Kim Crockett is the VP, senior policy fellow and general counsel for Center of the American Experiment. Crockett served two terms on the Deephaven City Council and is the former chair of the Excelsior Fire District.