Bolting the SEIU

If Minnesota’s PCAs are successful, labor experts say this will be the largest decertification in U.S. history.

Lakeville mother Kris Greene and other home-based personal care assistants (PCAs) in Minnesota do not want to be represented by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). With help from the Center’s Employee Freedom Project and others, PCAs have launched a statewide decertification campaign aimed at eliminating the new collective bargaining unit formed in 2014.

They need to collect about 9,000 signatures by December 2 to force a follow-up election, reigniting one of the state’s most controversial political issues of recent years.

If the PCAs successfully overturn the union vote, labor experts say, this will be the largest union decertification in U.S. history.

American Experiment’s vice president and senior policy fellow Kim Crockett launched the Employee Freedom Project late last year along with labor attorney Doug Seaton, and the non-profit litigation firm Americans for Lawful Unionism (ALU). The team notched a huge victory on March 1 when it helped home-based child care providers end an effort to force them into a union by a decisive two-to-one margin.

Like child care providers, home-based PCAs were targeted for forced unionization via executive order by Governor Mark Dayton. Seaton defeated Dayton and the unions in court but Dayton and his allies passed a law in 2013 that used transfer payments intended for low-income children and disabled Minnesotans to designate caregivers “state employees” for purposes of collective bargaining. The child care providers beat the union back but the PCAs were successfully organized by the SEIU with just 13 percent of the 27,000 PCAs eligible to vote.

“Many PCAs were simply unaware of the union vote in 2014 and threw the ballot away. Or they signed a union card not understanding what it meant,” Crockett says. “Or they were just too busy caring for a loved one!”

That 2014 vote, and the contract that followed, allows SEIU to collect voluntary dues from PCAs paid under Medicaid who chose to be members (or who unwittingly signed a card), thereby reducing funding for all PCAs. “But here’s the kicker,” Crockett says. “SEIU now speaks for all 27,000 PCAs, whether they voted for or against the union, or did not vote at all.”

“At the very least, this vote deserves a do-over with a majority of PCAs getting to vote,” she added.

Many PCAs, like Greene, reject the idea that they are public employees and do not want SEIU representation. Like Greene, most PCAs care for a disabled family member in their home. This pro- gram gives families the option to provide high quality, loving care at home rather than placing loved ones in an institution.

The Washington, D.C.-based Center for Worker Freedom has also pledged support.

In addition to collecting election cards to call for a new election, PCAs and the Employee Freedom Project launched “so that PCAs could build a community, and perhaps create an association that would keep them informed and represent them in the future at the Capitol.” according to Crockett. “It would be great if PCAs could use the power of the internet to network with one another. An association would cost a lot less than the SEIU and would be more effective at protecting the PCA program.”