The state announced in late August that labor union Service Employees International Union (SEIU) was victorious in the largest union election in state history. SEIU has won the right to “represent” Minnesota’s personal care assistants (PCAs), or home health workers. However, the arrangement still faces legal challenges, and rightly so, especially in light of questions about the integrity and transparency with which the election was conducted.
Intentionally scheduled for the dead of summer to ensure minimal participation, only 21 percent of eligible PCAs voted in the election. Fewer than 5,900 of the 27,000 eligible voters participated, and just 3,543 (or 13 percent) of the eligible voters actually voted for the union. The election was overseen by Commissioner Josh Tilsen of the Bureau of Mediation Services (BMS), who has been the subject of an ethical controversy regarding income he has collected from labor unions while performing his state work. Raising even more red flags, the ballots from the PCA election were counted in secret, barring neutral observers from monitoring the counting.
Nonetheless, it was the largest unionization effort in state history, and it will have reverberations. As the Star Tribune reported, “The vote makes the United Home Care Workers the largest unit in Minnesota to seek union certification since the Wagner Act was passed in 1935. Minnesota now joins 14 other states where home care workers are represented by unions.”
The Star Tribune described the vote as “the culmination of one of the most sweeping union expansion efforts in Minnesota history and represents a victory for Gov. Mark Dayton and the…Legislature.” Perhaps, but it was a cynical victory that had nothing to do with “workers’ rights” and everything to do with padding the coffers of the union cronies who put them in office.
Meanwhile, labor union AFSCME will likely ask the state to call a childcare union election in the near future. As a reminder, the state labor official who will oversee that election has been paid thousands of dollars by AFSCME while serving in his official position.