By: Kim Crockett, VP and Senior Policy Fellow at Center of the American Experiment
Last Thursday, October 27th was a busy day for a coalition of devoted personal care attendants (PCAs) trying to decertify the SEIU Union that got itself “elected” in 2014 with just 13 percent of the PCAs in the Choice program.
All of these PCAs care for a person with a disability in the home of their client, which is usually their home, too. Most of these PCAs are women caring for a disabled family member under a wonderful Medicaid program. They reject the idea that they are “state employees” who can be forced into a union, or that SEIU should be taking millions in Medicaid dollars intended for disabled Minnesotans.
First there was a hearing on the lawsuit PCAs have filed against the State of Minnesota in hopes of getting an accurate list of PCAs in time to force a new election. Time is of the essence. MNPCA has to have 30 percent of the bargaining unit sign an Election Authorization Card and turn them into the State just after Thanksgiving time.
Second, the hearing was followed by the second round of contract negotiations between the State and SEIU for a new SEIU contract—negotiations that have started months before state contract negotiation usually begin, and about 9 months before the June 30, 2017 expiration of the first and current contract. Why? (More on that later.)
The 2014 list of PCAs obtained from the State is out of date and full of bad addresses. Some addresses do not even exist, or it leads to an empty lot or gas station, and in some cases, the person’s name on the list and address match but they have never heard of the PCA program. Why are these names and addresses on the 2014 list for PCA Choice? And a second list turned over has a confusing jumble of PCAs in the SEIU/state “bargaining unit” with tens of thousands who are not—with no way to tell who is who.
As MNPCA Attorney Doug Seaton explained to the judge, MNPCA has wasted resources with that bad list. And it does not know how many PCAs are now in the bargaining unit, so it does not know what target to shoot for. Even if MNPCA hits 30 percent of what it thinks is the number in the “bargaining unit,” it might not be the right 30 percent.
The 2014 list has about 27,000 PCAs (so MNPCA would need about 9,000 cards). But there is evidence that the number of PCAs has shrunk, to perhaps as few as 15,000-18,000, as people realize that SEIU causes headaches for PCAs, and their families and fiscal agents who make it all run smoothly. They are moving to a program called “Traditional PCA” where the Union, at least for now, cannot reach them.
Sadly, the “Traditional PCA” program is not the program families prefer, and it makes them an employee of the fiscal agent.
The hearing was first thing in the morning. Judge Awsumb looked out into a packed courtroom, full of people from MNPCA, SEIU and the State, saying, “We don’t usually pack the courtroom at 8:30 in the morning!”
The surprising, big news from the hearing? The State of Minnesota admitted that it did not have a list of PCAs in the SEIU “bargaining unit” even though the State is required by law to keep an accurate list and update it on a MONTHLY basis.
And the state said it could not produce the list until November 14th, about two weeks before MNPCA has to produce thousands of signatures from people scattered all over the state. Let’s just say the judge was not pleased with the State.
The State argued that MNPCA should be denied the accurate list it was seeking, and that the DFL-majority Legislature in 2013 made a “policy decision” that the union could get the list of PCAs for the purpose of unionizing home-based PCAs but those same PCAs had no right to that same information.
In other words, the State will give the Union access to a list of PCAs so it can win a union election but the State will not give PCAs that same access so they can reach one another to exercise their right to force a new election or decertify the Union. The door only swings one way.
MNPCA is asking for several basic things from the District Court in Ramsey County:
- To immediately obtain all public data requested;
- To compel Defendants to suspend the premature collective bargaining process with SEIU Healthcare until the expiration of the 60-day decertification window,and any extension thereof ordered by the Court, and the conclusion of any resulting decertification election process; and
- To compel Defendants to recognize an extension of the 60-day decertification window commencing on the day following the production of all of the requested public data to Plaintiffs;
The Judge is expected to rule early this week.
PCAs are up against the almost unlimited resources of the State and the SEIU. All this tiny collation has is the MNPCA website, Facebook page, a not so great list and lots of good people trying to reach thousands of PCAs all over Minnesota. MNPCA has made phone calls, mailed post cards and letters, placed print ads and even run radio spots.
We believe in the nobility of this cause, and with your help, we can win, no matter what the Court decides.
Do not delay, sign your Election Card today!