How to Buy a Legislature: The SEIU in Minnesota Gets Big Bang for its Bucks

Posted by Olivia Grady on Monday, April 3rd, 2017 at 1:12 pm - Permalink

By Olivia Grady

In May 2013, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton signed S.F. 778 into law, declaring personal care assistants (PCAs) government employees. The catch was that they were government employees only for collective bargaining purposes. PCAs were not entitled to the benefits of normal government workers.

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) quickly held an election, but less than 4,000 PCAs actually voted for them, compared to the 27,000 people they claimed were PCAs. However, since 3,543 was a majority of those who voted, the SEIU won the election.

Today, the Center for Worker Freedom, along with our coalition allies, is helping these PCAs decertify from the union. In this effort, we’ve uncovered numerous accounts of fraud and identity theft. Doug Seaton, the lawyer for the PCAs, has asked for another election, but the Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services has not granted a new election yet.

Why did Governor Dayton and the Minnesota legislature support this bill? The answer is politics.

The SEIU is a major contributor to one of the main political parties in the state of Minnesota: the Democratic Farmer Labor (DFL) party. So, what do the contributions look like before and after the passage of this bill?

The contributions to DFL House candidates more than doubled between 2012 and 2014. In 2012, the SEIU spent $5,500 on the candidates, but in 2014, it spent $16,400. Interestingly, it only spent $750 in 2010 and $6,000 in 2016. These numbers clearly show that the years surrounding the vote were very important to the SEIU.

Another indicator is that the two DFL legislators, Gene Pelowski Jr. and Tina Liebling, who didn’t vote for the bill have not received contributions from the union since the vote.

One of these candidates was endorsed in 2016 by the union, but the other was not. Almost all of the other candidates were endorsed in 2016. Endorsed by the union doesn’t just mean a press release by the union and candidate, it also means the union will help the candidate with mailers, phone calls and other campaign work.

The story, however, changes for the Senate side.

While there was an increase in total SEIU contributions to DFL candidates from $1500 in 2010 to $5,750 in 2012, the contributions dropped off in 2014 to $850. There was a large increase to $9,000, however, in 2016. This is surprising.

Although, once again the DFL Senators who voted no on the PCA government employee bill received a smaller amount or were not included.

Another surprising fact is that all of the  DFL Senators were endorsed by the SEIU in 2016, even those that voted against the bill.

The data seems to suggest that the SEIU heavily contributed to DFL Senate candidates in the election before the vote to get them to vote for the PCA bill. The union, however, contributed to the DFL House candidates after the bill was passed to thank the candidates for their support.

Please click here for a PDF of this data.