By: Tom Steward, Investigative Journalist at Center of the American Experiment
December 5, 2016
The Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services has ordered the suspension of contract talks between the Service Employees International Union representing personal care attendants and state negotiators to avoid interfering with a union decertification campaign underway.
“This Order is issued to preserve existing conditions and promote a free and fair environment for the resolution of this question of representation,” said Carol Clifford, a BMS Representation Specialist, in a two page order dated December 5.
“…It shall remain in full force and effect until an investigation and/or hearing has been conducted and the matter is disposed of by a determination issued by the Commissioner of the Bureau of Mediation Services.”
A coalition of home care workers, MNPCA, has been working for months to gather enough signatures to force a new election to decertify the SEIU Healthcare Minnesota bargaining unit. SEIU won a low turnout union election in 2014 to represent personal care attendants, who provide subsidized home-based care for those with special needs. The union set dues at 3 percent of gross pay up to $948 a year, pouring an estimated $4.7 million from the Medicaid program into SEIU coffers.
The current contract doesn’t expire until July 2017. But SEIU and Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB) Office officials have been meeting months earlier than usual to negotiate a new contract before the end of the year, likely ending the decertification effort for the duration of the new agreement. The window for decertification depends on the dates of the contract under state law.
“This is significant because if the SEIU and Dayton administration sign a new contract, it’s possible our petition for a new union election would be defeated,” said Kim Crockett, Vice-President at Center of the American Experiment, a supporter of the decertification drive. “Everything we’ve done might be thrown out and we wouldn’t be able to start a new campaign for two years.”
On December 2 MNPCA filed almost 2,600 cards with BMS from personal care attendants in support of a decertification election. But the coalition has experienced repeated problems with the accuracy of lists of PCAs provided by the Minnesota Department of Human Services.
After being ordered to do so repeatedly by a Ramsey County judge, the state agency turned over a more extensive list of homecare workers under court order last week, leaving it unclear how many signatures MNPCA needs to reach the 30 percent threshold necessary to force a decertification vote. As a result, MNPCA is going to keep collecting signatures on cards that can be downloaded at MNPCA.org.
“The state’s refusal to provide a genuine list has stymied PCAs until last week,” said Doug Seaton, attorney for MNPCA. “So now we must accelerate the push to get as many cards as possible, so the election cannot be stopped and PCAs can be freed of the fake union, SEIU, and its dues deduction scams.”
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