Activists turned in more than 10,000 signatures Thursday to the office of Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton from state-subsidized personal care attendants seeking to decertify the union that represents them.
The activists argue that the union was created through fraud and doesn't have the support of most of the caregivers.
The personal care attendants take care of people, mostly incapacitated family members, with the help of a program subsidized through a combination of state and federal funds. In 2014, the then-Democrat-led state legislature passed a law declaring that the providers were public employees, although most work at their homes. Following a mail-in election, SEIU Healthcare Minnesota was certified as the workers' representative, making the union eligible for a 3 percent cut of the workers' subidy checks. That adds up to $948 annually for most of the workers.
"We have determined that there were fraudulent-showing cards that brought about that election ... In any event, no matter what fraud level there was, only 3,500 [personal care attendants] voted for this union. We have more than 10,000 cards" signed by people who want a new election, said Doug Seaton, the attorney representing MNCPA, a nonprofit activist group leading the decertification effort, at a press conference in the state capitol.
Personal care attendants participating the drive said that they did not want or need union representation and were blindsided by the election results. "I have real concerns that this union is not for the welfare of me or my daughter but for political purposes," said Kris Greene, a Lakeville worker. "I am not happy that the SEIU says my home is a union workplace. It is not. It is our home."
Sarah Madill, a Duluth personal care attendant who until recently took care of her sister, said she repeatedly told SEIU canvassers that she wanted no part of a union, at one point even threatening to call the police to get them off her doorstep. She was shocked to later see that her subsidy checks were being docked union dues. "I called the SEIU to ask why dues were being taken out when I signed no card (authorizing that). They sent me a card in the mail with a signature that they claimed was mine," she said.
Other workers have come forward this year saying that documents showing that they authorized union dues deductions were forged. "The signature did not look anything like mine. I'm left-handed," Patricia Johansen, a homecare provider from Fergus Falls, told the Washington Examiner in April. 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 card. It told her that the situation had happened with the person "only a couple of times."
The state says 27,000 workers are represented by the union, meaning that 9,000 cards would be needed to force a new election.
The law that made the personal care attendants eligible for unionization explicitly said the providers were public employees only for that purpose. They didn't qualify for pensions, healthcare, or any other benefits available to state workers.
The now-Republican-led statehouse is investigating the circumstances that lead to the union's creation. "On May 8, 2017, my subcommittee which oversees state employee contracts, heard almost a full day of testimony ... What I heard was shocking, hearing testimony detailing what could only be described as fraud during and after the SEIU's election, and bullying, I am more concerned than ever that this is a fraud on taxpayers," said Rep. Marion O'Neill, R-Maple Lake.
A representative of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota could not be reached for comment.