Union Decertification Drive Leads to Hearing on SEIU Election

Some 6,500 personal care assistants have submitted cards calling on state officials to allow them to vote out the union bargaining unit that nominally represents them. That’s more home care workers than voted in the 2014 election that led to union representation. In fact, SEIU Healthcare Minnesota won the 2014 election with just 3,500 votes out of 5,800 ballots cast in a campaign with a 20 percent turnout rate.Patricia

The Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services will not authorize a decertification election until union opponents submit cards of support from at least 30 percent of PCAs statewide as required by law. But concerns that have surfaced in the decertification campaign have led state lawmakers to refocus their attention on the controversial 2014 union election and aftermath.

Patricia Johansen has worked as a home caregiver for her two special-needs grandchildren for about 10 years.

Since she never agreed to join the union that represents such Medicaid-eligible caregivers in Minnesota, Johansen was surprised to discover that union dues had been deducted from her benefit check for about four months.

In an affidavit, the Fergus Falls resident says she is convinced the union, SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, forged her signature so it could start deducting the dues.

Johansen’s story is one reason a state lawmaker is scheduling a hearing where she expects the head of the state’s labor relations agency, a political appointee of Gov. Mark Dayton, to explain how SEIU Healthcare Minnesota won a unionization election—and why it should continue to represent the home caregivers.

A joint Minnesota House and Senate oversight committee plans to call BMS Commissioner Josh Tilsen to testify on allegations tied to the 2014 union election.

State Rep. Marion O’Neill, chairman of the Subcommittee on Employee Relations, told The Daily Signal that she wants the Dayton appointee to appear before the joint panel of the Minnesota House and Senate to address evidence of “fraudulent signatures, nonexistent voters, and ballot tampering” in a 2014 unionization election.

Johansen’s experience is one such discrepancy.

“We are going to have a full, robust hearing on how this process happened and have the personal care assistants come forward to talk about their experiences, and to talk about how it came to be that union dues were taken out of their paycheck without their knowledge or permission,” O’Neill, a Republican from Buffalo, said in an interview with The Daily Signal.

But the inquiry will focus on more than union dues allegedly illicitly deducted from home care workers’ paychecks.

The Daily Signal has copies of 11 signed affidavits spelling out such allegations from personal care assistants in Minnesota, as well as canvassers who volunteered to collect signatures in the petition drive to decertify SEIU.

Using lists of personal care assistants and their addresses supplied by Tilsen’s agency, the volunteers say, they have encountered multiple nonexistent addresses as well as addresses where no resident was a PCA or the PCA listed no longer lives.

Center of the American Experiment estimates the SEIU in Minnesota collects about $4.7 million from PCAs around the state. The union deducts 3 percent of gross wages up to $948 a year.