Unions and PCAs: Frequently Asked Questions

Update: As of late December 2016, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) claims to represent some 19,000 Minnesota PCAs. How did this happen and what does it mean for you? Here are some frequently asked questions:

Even if I don’t pay dues, am I still represented by the SEIU?

Yes, even if you are not paying dues, or did not sign a union card, the union is your exclusive representative under Minnesota state law. That means SEIU speaks for you at the Capitol. SEIU can influence issues such as certification, training and home inspections. And you are bound to the contract, and future contracts, whether you like it or not.

How did the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) come to represent PCAs?

Governor Dayton and his allies in the legislature declared PCAs ‘public employees’ in 2013 only for the purpose of ‘collective bargaining’ -in other words, so they can put you in a union. PCAs are not eligible for any of the benefits traditionally provided to public employees.

Did the SEIU win a representation election?

In 2014, under this new law, the SEIU won an election that allowed them to claim exclusive representation of all PCAs across the state. However, out of the reported 27,000 PCAs, only 3,543 PCAs voted in favor of unionization. That’s just 13%. Many PCAs were not aware of the vote or its ramifications and feel they were unwittingly trapped in a union they do not want. Some PCAs never got a ballot.

Has being in a union benefitted PCAs?

Through an agreement between the legislature and SEIU, there was a hike in the pay floor from $9 to $11 ($2.75 15-minute rate) over the first few years of the contract. But, most PCAs were already earning well above that—even family members limited to 80% of the hourly rate. In fact, the state legislature can raise PCA wages any time they want and has done so many times without the help of the union (see chart below).

2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
% Change 2.26% 2.26% 2.00% 2.00% -2.58% 0.00% -1.50% 0.00% 1.50% 5.00% 2.53% 0.20%
15-min Rate $3.81 $3.90 $3.98 $4.06 $3.96 $3.96 $3.90 $3.90 $3.96 $4.16 $4.27 $4.28

Chart of Legislative Changes to PCA reimbursement changes from 2006 forward (Data from DHS)

But what about Paid Time Off (PTO)?

Under the SEIU contract, PCAs accrue one hour of paid time off for every 52 hours of work. For full-time PCAs, this amounts to five days a year. PCAs may only use their PTO after working 600 hours and receiving permission from their employer. Many PCAs are offended by the notion of ‘PTO’ from their family caregiving or believe it is meaningless. For PCAs working for non-family, PTO is a welcome break. But, just like wage increases, paid time off can be granted by the legislature without the SEIU.

How can I get rid of the SEIU for good?

The only way to get rid of the SEIU is through a new election. In order to trigger such an election, we must show that at least 30% of the bargaining unit no longer wishes to be represented by the union. If we accomplish that, then we get to vote. Problem: we do not know how many PCAs are in the bargaining unit.