The SEIU Medicaid Scam

Paige Halper Fellow, Center for Worker Freedom
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Mark Dayton is no quitter.

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton signed S.F. 778 into law in May 2013. The law opened up unionization for thousands of homecare workers who have chosen to care for special-needs family members at home.

Following the passage of S.F. 778, less than 6,000 workers voted for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) to become the exclusive representative of an estimated 27,000 PCAs.  The union signed a contract with the state of Minnesota in May 2015 and now the union takes three percent of each member’s Medicaid subsidy.

It’s this contract and pay system that Dayton used to classify PCAs as government employees, allowing the union to march in under the guise of collective bargaining. The contract asserts, “the State recognizes the union as the exclusive representative under Minnesota Public Employee Labor Relations Act (PERLA).”

But PERLA provides a very specific definition of a public employee — “any person appointed or employed by a public employer.” A public employee, then, would not be hired by a family member or friend in need at home.

The Supreme Court has agreed.

In the 2014 case Harris v. Quinn, eight Illinois home healthcare workers, known as personal assistants (PAs), fought paying agency fees to the SEIU. The agency fees, unlike traditional members’ dues, require non-members to pay the union costs related to collective bargaining.

In the Harris opinion, the Supreme Court ruled that forcing PAs to pay union agency fees was unconstitutional, violating the First Amendment. The Court also labelled PAs as “much different from public employees. Unlike full-fledged public employees, PAs are almost entirely answerable to the customers and not to the State.” Sound familiar?

Nevertheless, the SEIU is collecting three percent of  the modest Minnesotan PCA government subsidies.

The SEIU and Dayton have already made attempts at unionization. In November 2011, just two years prior to S.F. 778, Dayton tried to authorize union elections for child-care providers through an executive order.

Keyword: tried.

Ramsey County District Court Judge Dale Lindman struck down Dayton’s order in April 2012. Not only was the order considered a breech of constitutional authority, but the workers definitely didn’t want it: the providers’ votes against unionization were nearly triple that of support.

Back in 2012, Minnesota Representative Kathy Lohmer authored a bill protecting childcare providers’ finances from being sent to unions. Dayton vetoed it three months after it passed in the House. In response, Lohmer released a cautionary statement:

 Simply put: the governor could attempt to exert his authority in other ways over the next two years he is in office, and my legislation would have created protections should that happen. Looking ahead, Minnesotans need to send a clear, resounding message that we need to protect our private business owners from a union takeover.

But why has Governor Dayton’s legacy been stained with continued attempts at deducting pay from the already low wages of Minnesota homecare workers?

To benefit his friends at the SEIU, of course.

With two million members nationwide and four affiliates in Minnesota, the SEIU represents a huge range of workers, from food service to custodians. And now, a husband caring for his wife who had a stroke.

The SEIU Minnesota State Council endorsed Dayton’s campaign back in 2010 and spent $13,500 on his political career in just four years. Union officials celebrated S.F. 778 for opening up millions of dollars in payouts by introducing homecare workers to unionization.

Imagine you’re a PCA in Minnesota, caring for your child. Does the SEIU brush their teeth three percent of the time? Does it fill prescriptions and clean the sheets after an accident? Does the union provide 24/7 companionship and care to the one you love?

Then it certainly doesn’t deserve three percent of your money.

Paige Halper is the Athena Worker Freedom Fellow at The Center for Worker Freedom, a special project of Americans for Tax Reform. phalper@atr.org