Breaking Up of MN’s In-Home Care Provider Union Hits Snag

An upcoming contract renewal could negate the efforts of PCAs fighting for a decertification election.

Senator Al DeKruif, his wife Carol DeKruif and their adult son Jason DeKruif. They travelled from LeSueur on Sunday and stayed overnight to be at the Capitol Monday morning for a hearing on the SEIU PCA contract.

ST. PAUL, Minn. – For almost a year, home-based personal care attendants (PCAs) across Minnesota have been pursuing a special election to decertify the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). However, an upcoming contract renewal could negate their efforts.

In 2014, home-based Choice PCAs in Minnesota were unionized following a mail-in ballot election where only 13 percent of PCAs voted in favor of the union. Despite the election’s remarkably low turnout, the results still stood, and over 27,000 PCAs in Minnesota were unionized.

For almost a year, MNPCA, a coalition of in-home care providers, have been seeking an election so PCAs themselves can determine if they want to continue the representation. Feeling misrepresented, the coalition of PCAs went door-to-door, talking with PCAs around the state about their experience with the union.

Right from the start, the election raised eyebrows. Some PCAs claimed they never received a ballot. Others reported receiving a ballot and voting “no,” but later looking at their pay stub and finding union dues subtracted. When this was brought to SEIU’s attention, PCAs found their signatures had been forged, or they had been tricked into signing a card believing it was a request for more information or a pledge of support for certain benefits.

Whether intentionally signing up to be a union member or having their signature forged, PCAs were having 3 percent of gross wages, up to $948 per year, deducted from their paycheck. Based on federal filings, the Center of the American Experiment estimates SEIU is getting revenue of $4.7 million annually from PCA dues. As Alpha News previously reported, the national SEIU donated upwards of $1.36 million to congressional campaigns, all of them being Democrats, including giving thousands to Minnesotan candidates Rep. Keith Ellison (CD5), Rep. Rick Nolan (CD8), and Rep. Betty McCollum (CD4).

“There may have been an election in 2014, but this coalition of PCAs has raised serious questions about irregularities and fraud. So it calls into doubt whether the election was proper, and if the results should be accepted,” Center of the American Experiment Vice President Kim Crockett told Alpha News. “We are willing to say you won the election, but we would like a new one (or get the results thrown out).”

In order to be able to call for a special election, MNPCA had to produce election cards for 30 percent of PCAs currently in the bargaining unit. SEIU last estimated the bargaining unit to include about 19,000 PCAs. MNPCA was able to reach thousands of PCAs across the state, collecting over 7,500 cards petitioning for a decertification election, well above the required amount. Despite meeting the requirements, the state Bureau of Mediation Services (BMS) denied MNPCA a new election.

MNPCA attorney Doug Seaton is not backing down, telling Alpha News they are appealing the decision made by BMS.

“Twice as many that voted for the SEIU in the first place do not want the union,” Seaton told Alpha News. “We believe that is enough to call another election.”

However, PCAs may not even get the chance to take the issue to court. A hearing of the Subcommittee on Employee Relations is scheduled for May 15 where they are expected to discuss SEIU’s PCA contract. The two year agreement, beginning in 2014 at the start of the bargaining unit, expires in July 2017. If the Subcommittee on Employee Relations approves the contract, it would put an end to any decertification efforts.

“If the contract is ratified, it will stop the decertification,” Seaton explained. “We believe we have raised significant issues of misconduct such that the contract should not be ratified, or at a minimum action should be deferred into the post-session period until the information can be fully considered.”

One of the provisions in the new contract is a higher wages for PCAs. While urging legislators not to ratify the new contract, Seaton emphasized they are not against higher wages for PCAs. The current omnibus health and human services bill includes a raise for PCAs, something Seaton says they are “very much in favor of.” Seaton says this is one example why the union is unnecessary.

“There is nothing that the union offers PCAs that they can’t do themselves,” Seaton said.

“It is a disgraceful situation,” Seaton added. “I hope that the subcommittee looks very hard at the implications of a decision on the SEIU PCA contract. The ratification now could stop all of the decertification efforts that have been underway for a year, and take away PCAs voice in their own future. Delaying ratification would allow the process to unfold, and would potentially allow PCAS to get an election. If we are wrong and PCAs want the union, so be it. We want PCAs to have their voice.”

Christine Bauman