Healthcare workers seek to decertify deceit union.
As its membership plummets, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is seeking to unionize home healthcare workers, who have never previously organized and do not fit the traditional description of the public employees SEIU typically represents. The union is making its attempt in states across the country, but in Minnesota, where the union has been rife with fraud, personal-care attendants are pushing back, pursuing one of the largest union-decertification efforts in the history of the United States.
In 2013, Governor Mark Dayton signed a law declaring that home healthcare providers—mostly women caring for disabled family members—are government employees, but only for the purposes of collective bargaining. Shortly thereafter, the SEIU swooped in, pressuring workers to vote for unionization. Fewer than 6,000 ballots were cast, but because Minnesota law only requires unions to receive majority support from those who vote, rather than from the entire bargaining unit, the 3,543 yes votes were enough to unionize all 27,000 personal-care attendants in the state.
To make matters worse, caretakers allege that SEIU did more than harass and “stalk” them—they say the union also forged signatures and denied anti-union voters ballots in the election. Nonetheless, the resulting contract stipulated that 3 percent of the Medicaid funds received by caregivers as compensation for their work would be taken from them and handed over as union dues to the SEIU.
Thanks to the Supreme Court decision in Harris v. Quinn (2014), unions representing home health workers can only collect payment from those who voluntarily opt in to the union and agree to have dues deducted. In Minnesota, however, the SEIU was caught deducting dues from caregivers who had never given them permission to do so. Patricia Johansen, a personal-care attendant in Otter Tail County, told the Center for Worker Freedom that she had never voted for the union or agreed to join and have dues deducted. In the fall of 2015, however, she noticed that the SEIU had been skimming dues from her Medicaid funds. When she complained, the SEIU said that it had her signed dues-deduction authorization card on file. Patricia, who is left-handed and writes in an elegant and distinctive cursive script, requested a copy—and received a form that had been filled out in her name in crude, block letters with a clumsy signature. Patricia had her dues refunded after notifying the union that she had been defrauded, but others have not been as lucky. Now, she and other personal-care attendants are collecting signatures to put the SEIU back on the ballot. They hope to decertify the union that appears to have engaged in voter disenfranchisement, identity theft, and unlawful dues deduction, all in order to divert Medicaid funds to its own coffers.
The coalition has collected more than 6,500 signatures—nearly double the number of caregivers who voted to unionize—but the Dayton administration is moving the goalposts. According to Patterson of the Center for Worker Freedom, when the coalition originally submitted its signatures in December 2016, it was told that both a hearing and an election would be scheduled. But shortly thereafter, the administration revoked its decision, at the request of the SEIU.
The SEIU’s rampant abuse is making one of the most wasteful federal government programs even more costly. Medicaid consumes nearly a third of the entire Minnesota state budget and is growing rapidly, crowding out funding for roads, schools, and other core government responsibilities. Nationally, it costs over $530 billion a year, and is one of the primary drivers of national debt. Already, the program is stretching taxpayers thin. Unfortunately, Governor Dayton and his administration have allowed the SEIU to game the system for their own benefit, siphoning off as much as $5 million in Minnesota alone. Officials can, and should, put an end to this racket. One option is state action.
State representative Marion O’Neill, chair of the Subcommittee on Employee Relations, called for an investigation into fraud in the unionization effort. She said she would schedule “full, robust hearings” on how the election took place and why dues were deducted without permission. She said she hoped to expose and end any wrongdoing. The federal government could also put a stop to any fraudulent activity. The Health and Human Services Secretary could issue a regulation stating that Medicaid funds cannot be siphoned off as union dues. Such a rule is well within their authority to preserve the intent of the Medicaid program, and would have no impact on collective-bargaining rights. It would simply ensure that a union collects dues only from those who voluntarily send them, and that it does not take them without permission, as the SEIU has been doing in Minnesota.
In the meantime, if Minnesota’s personal care-attendants vote to remove the SEIU in one of the largest union-decertification efforts in American history, they will have scored a historic win for taxpayers, caregivers, and the truly needy in their state.