Minnesota home health care workers launched a campaign to disband their union Monday in what could become the largest decertification vote in history.
Kris Greene has taken care of her daughter for almost 24 years including five years as a Personal Care Assistant (PCA). She is now leading the fight to decertify the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which represents all 27,000 home health care workers statewide since 2013. Greene believes the union won the vote based on misinformation and that it only cares about getting Medicaid funds.
“Well the SEIU came in and said that PCAs are state employees and in doing that they have unionized us,” Greene told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “So that is what we’re trying to fight against. That we’re not employees and that I don’t need a union to represent me or my daughter.”
Greene and other union critics will first have to get at least 30 percent of home health care workers to agree to hold a decertification vote by December. The SEIU won the original election even though only about 5,800 showed up to vote. Greene believes the reason so few voted was because most weren’t aware of what was happening.
“There weren’t a lot of people that voted for or against,” Greene continued. “We don’t have to go along with this. That the union came in and we have a second vote that we can use towards decertification. So I am just going to help out in anyway I can to get that out there.”
Greene notes her duty is to inform her fellow home health care workers about the vote. The decertification effort is so massive it looks like a political campaign, since it involves thousands of workers throughout the state. The fight is personal for Greene since she believes the union is taking advantage of a program that has helped her special needs daughter.
“The state has programs to help me care for her to keep her out of the institutions and keep her out of the homes,” Greene noted. “I am very thankful for that, and I think the union is taking advantage of that and I really want to make sure that people have this vote and to get back to what we do, taking care of our children and taking care of our family members.”
Minnesota lawmakers allowed the union to organize all home health care workers as a single bargaining unit by passing a law dictating they are state employees simply because they collect Medicaid funds. Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton tried to do the same in 2011 through an executive order, but it failed in the courts. The Center for Worker Freedom (CWF) is assisting with the effort to decertify.
“They declared these home health care workers to be public employees by an act of legislation and its only in regards to collective bargaining,” CWF Executive Director Matt Patterson told TheDCNF. “Its a perversion of Democracy and we suspect there are a lot of these PCAs that don’t even realize they are unionized.”
The U.S. Supreme Court dealt with a similar situation out of Illinois during the 2014 case Harris v. Quinn. The SEIU has been unable to collect mandatory dues because of the case, but critics warn it has only posed a minor setback. The home health care workers are still subjected to the labor agreement and it’s often a difficult logistical mess of paperwork to get out of paying dues.
“We believe a lot of PCAs who are paying dues don’t realize they don’t have to,” Patterson continued. “We don’t know what they have been told by the union. Obviously the government and state is not going to tell them all the facts. The legislature and governor are totally in the pocket of the union. So we are going to make sure they know they don’t have to pay dues.”
Greene notes the union contract is a burden when it comes to taking care of her daughter. She notes even the supposed benefits have been problematic. The union, for instance, has made it so home health care workers cannot work for more the 40 hours a week, which is nearly impossible for those taking care of loved ones.
“The SEIU and the changes they have made have not benefited me or my family,” Greene notes. “I really feel its about politics and not for me or my daughter. Its the political game and I don’t want to be a part of it to be honest. I just want to take care of my daughter in the best way that she needs and all this other stuff is just interference.”
Greene said the vast majority of home health care workers in the state are like her, in that they take care of loved ones. The union also negotiated a pay raise, but the state legislature has routinely increased subsidies long before the union was involved.
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