Minnesota’s Economic News — W/E 9/24/21
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There is very good news on the MNPCA front. If a proposed Medicaid rule is approved, funds for the disabled and their health care providers will be protected.
The Center has been working with MNPCA, a coalition of personal care attendants (PCAs) and their attorney Doug Seaton, for several years to decertify the SEIU’s Healthcare Minnesota union. Most of the PCAs care for disabled family members under a Medicaid program that aims to keep disabled Americans at home; they get better care and it is less expensive for the taxpayer.
In 2014, the PCAs were unionized as public employees. How could that be? These are private citizens working for the disabled person who gets the Medicaid benefit.
Here is the Minnesota story:
The Dayton Smith administration, first by executive order and then by legislation (2103 DFL majority) simply declared that PCAs were “public employees” but only so they could be subject to unionization. (There are no benefits like a pension or health care.) It did not take long for the SEIU to win a so-called “election.”
The problem? Most PCAs, who are spread out all over the state and have never met one another, had NO IDEA they were now in a union. Or paying up to $948 a year in fees.
After years of work, MNPCA collected and delivered over 10,000 cards to the offices of Gov. Dayton and Lt. Gov. Tina Smith on September 28, 2017 from PCAs saying they wanted out of the union, and demanding a new election. (See photo–cards filled these boxes.)
But the Dayton Smith administration has fought MNPCA every step of the way; the matter is still being litigated.
So along other states like Washington and Illinois that have the same corrupt scheme, the Center and MNPCA turned to elected officials and Health and Human Services (HHS) in Washington, D.C. for help. HHS has announced a proposed rule that would make it harder for the SEIU (and Afscme) to skim funds from cash-strapped welfare programs for the disabled.
In fact, our lead PCA Kris Greene went to Washington, D.C. with me back in January to meet with lawmakers to alert them to this scheme and ask for their help. (See photo.)
Today The Wall Street Journal brought attention to a proposed new Medicaid rule and called for an end to this scheme: No More Union Skimming: HHS seeks to stop states from taking fees without worker consent.
Here are the WSJ editors:
At least 11 states abet the labor cash-grab by skimming caregivers’ wages and sending the money straight to unions to cover fees and member contributions to labor political action committees. That once was illegal given the Social Security Act’s explicit instructions that, with few exceptions, state payments to a Medicaid beneficiary must go directly to the person or institution that provides the care or service.
But in 2014 the Obama Administration codified a new exemption that allowed states to make payments to third parties on behalf of caregivers “for benefits such as health insurance, skills training, and other benefits customary for employees.” In other words, this was a political gift to unions.
On July 10 HHS announced a proposed rule to repeal this union carve-out. This would end dues skimming for good, and caregivers would have to opt in to union membership. Dues payments and contributions to union PACs would become more transparent, with consenting members writing a check or handing over their credit card.
To be clear, if the Obama rule is fixed, the unions that have been certified would unfortunately continue until they are decertified—that is why MNPCA is not giving up in Minnesota. Decertification is the only way to get rid of these predatory unions; that and a declaration from Congress that they are illegal. I want to know: how does a union collectively bargain over a Medicaid program benefit? This is, or should be, a purely legislative matter.
But if the rule is approved, the state of Minnesota could no longer deduct union dues for the SEIU and deposit it in their coffers. The union would have to collect its own funds: given that the SEIU is skimming 3% of the wages of low-income PCAs, I would imagine they will have a harder time justifying the dues grab to even consenting members, and at a minimum will have to lower their fees.
(I recall when I told a disabled SEIU enthusiast how much the union was taking from his PCA; he was shocked.)
The WSJ editors point out that the recent Janus v. AFSCME decision makes this union-revenue boosting scheme even less defensible, if there was anything left to defend. “The Supreme Court said in its Janus ruling last month that unions must obtain clear and affirmative consent from public employees before they collect fees.” (Previously the Court had said in Harris v. Quinn that since PCAs were not really public employees, they did not have to pay a dime to unions. Janus doubles down.)
We have PCA friends in Minnesota who did not even vote in the union election let alone sign a union card, yet they had dues taken from their paychecks. We know PCAs who never got a ballot, and others whose signatures were forged. Other PCAs signed a card when they were told it was, “just for information.” This is not “affirmative consent.” It is a fraud on unsuspecting good people.
Again, here are the WSJ editors:
This will not please the Service Employees International Union, Afscme and other unions, which get $250 million each year from this arrangement, according to the State Policy Network. But the current transfer of wealth is all the more cynical given that one in five households with a disabled family member fall below the federal poverty line. The Trump Administration is right to stop unions from pillaging vulnerable families.
The proposed rule is proof that Mrs. Greene can go to Washington, and make a difference. Go Kris, go MNPCA!
P.S. Here is a picture of Kris, her daughter Meredie, Doug Seaton and I testifying at the Minnesota Senate last session. Meredie has been a trooper for years, attending court hearings, testimony and rallies. She is amazing and a blessing to us all. She represents all the special people who need our help to protect this wonderful Medicaid program from fraud and abuse.