An effort to decertify a Minnesota union for state-funded home healthcare workers is picking up steam, with organizers saying they soon may have enough backing from homecare workers to qualify for a new vote on decertifying the union.
"We have more cards in hand than the people who voted for the union," said Rusty Brown, a lawyer with the MNCPA, the group organizing the decertification effort.
The effort has 6,500 signed cards from state homecare workers saying they would like a new election. Only 5,800 workers voted to join the Service Employees International Union in 2014.
According to state officials, 27,000 workers are represented by the union, meaning that 9,000 cards would be needed to force a new election. MNCPA is questioning the state's numbers.
"We believe, based on evidence we have collected, that there are actually less than 20,000 [homecare workers] in the bargaining unit. Having said that, our card collecting operations are ongoing," Brown said.
A spokesman for SEIU Healthcare Minnesota could not be reached for comment.
The homecare providers, who are subsidized through a combination of state and federal funds, were unionized after the then-Democrat-led state legislature passed a law declaring that the providers were public employees. That was despite the fact that most providers take care of invalid family members at their homes.
The law explicitly said the providers were public employees only for the purposes of forming a union. They didn't qualify for pensions, healthcare or other benefits available to state workers.
Several of the homecare workers have charged fraud by the union. Janine Yates, a homecare worker in Hopkins, Minn., said she refused to sign a union card authorizing SEIU to deduct membership dues from her subsidy checks. When she subsequently discovered that the deductions were being made anyway, she called the union to complain and was told that it had a signed authorization from her to make the deductions.
"I believe that the first SEIU canvasser completed and forged my signature to this document," Yates said in an affidavit filed with the Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services. She also said she was misled when she signed a separate document making her a member of the union, having been told by the canvasser that it only put her on an email list for news about the election.
Patricia Johansen, a homecare provider from Fergus Falls who helps take care of two special needs grandchildren, said she also never signed a card authorizing deductions from her subsidy checks but discovered the funds were being taken out anyway. When she complained about them to an SEIU official, she was also told that they had her signature on file.
"The signature did not look anything like mine. I'm left-handed," Johansen told the Washington Examiner. Whoever had signed her name was apparently right-handed. The union later told her that they had dismissed the signature gatherer who had turned in the fake authorization card. It told her that this situation had happened with this person "only a couple of times."
Another homecare provider, Holly, who asked that her last name not be used, said she turned away a union official in 2014 when she was approached at the home of the woman she took care of. The following year she discovered deductions were being made. "I never signed anything," she said.
Repeated efforts to get the union to stop the deductions failed. "Eventually I had to forward the emails I was sending to the union to my employer and tell them to stop making the deductions," Holly said.
MNCPA obtained from the state, after many delays, a list of the homecare providers. Canvassers hired by the group to go door to door as part of the decertification effort report in affidavits that in at least 18 cases the person listed as a union member on the state document said they either had never been a homecare provider or ceased to be one well before the 2014 election.
In numerous other cases, the addresses on the list were either nonexistent or for places where no one lived, such as vacant lots, gas stations and office buildings.