Minnesota Homecare Workers Take their Fight to the Legislature

Posted by Olivia Grady on Wednesday, May 10th, 2017 at 4:26 pm - Permalink

By Olivia Grady

On May 8, 2017, the Minnesota Legislative Coordination Commission Subcommittee on Employee Relations held a meeting at 9 am to discuss the decertification effort by health homecare workers that the Center for Worker Freedom has been involved with.

In May 2013, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton, a member of the progressive political party DFL, signed S.F. 778 into law. The law turned health homecare workers into government employees but only for collective bargaining purposes. It also allowed the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) to quickly hold an election and claim victory when only 3,543 caregivers voted for the SEIU (the majority of those who voted) out of 27,000.

These caregivers are usually family members who take care of a loved one with a disability. Now, the SEIU is taking 3 percent of the Medicaid money given to them to take care of their loved ones. The personal care assistants, however, have decided to fight back, and they are trying to hold another election.

In order to stop the decertification effort, however, the union has negotiated a new contract with the state, months before their 2015 contract actually ends.

The Subcommittee meeting turned out to be contentious, and many people spoke about their experiences with the SEIU. The Committee even had to adjourn and reconvene for a second session later in the day in order to accommodate all of the witnesses.

The main discussion had to do with the alleged fraud that the SEIU had committed. Witnesses for the personal care assistants (PCAs) included Kris Greene, Sara Madill, Catherine Hunter, Hollee Hembree and Mary Welty.

Homecare workers, including former Minnesota State Senator Al DeKruif, are claiming that they were never sent a ballot to vote in the union election, which is illegal:

“None of them ever received a ballot. None of them were given the opportunity to vote,” Al DeKruif said. “I believe it was a fradulent election. I think they should have the opportunity to vote again.”

Others claimed their signatures were forged so the union could automatically deduct dues from the Medicaid money:

“I didn’t want to be in it, they forged my signature, I signed nothing with them and it just got to a point where I felt like I was being harassed to join [SEIU Healthcare MN],” said Sara Madill, a Duluth PCA who helped care for her sister.

The union, however, claims that the majority of caretakers supports the union and that the courts have found no wrongdoing by the SEIU:

“The claims against our union are growing more silly and outlandish with time, and their attempts to win support of actual health care workers has failed,” Jamie Gulley of SEIU HealthCare MN said. “The fact remains that health care workers support their union.”

Representative Debra Hilstrom, who represents 40B and sits on the Subcommittee, also complained that this hearing was political:

“I have served on this subcommittee as the longest serving member,” said Rep. Debra Hilstrom (DFL-Brooklyn Center). ” I have never seen what’s about to happen today happen in this subcommittee ever and the politicization of these particular issues.”

Center for Worker Freedom allies Doug Seaton, the lawyer for the homecare workers, and Kim Crockett of the Center of the American Experiment also testified about the decertification effort and the possible fraud by the SEIU.

The Subcommittee will meet again on May 15, 2017, and vote on whether to ratify the second contract shortly.

After the first part of the hearing, MNPCA, the group of homecare workers who want to decertify the SEIU, held a press conference at 10:30 am at the Capitol. The press conference introduced some of the PCAs who alleged that they had been defrauded by the SEIU to local press, which includes local CBS and Fox News affiliates.

During the press conference, supporters of the union lined the back walls with hand held signs shaming victims of the SEIU malfeasance. Below are some photos from the press conference: