The state Bureau of Mediation Services Friday dismissed an attempt to decertify the union for 27,000 Minnesota home care workers, meaning a contract securing their wages, benefits and working conditions can move forward.
The group seeking to eliminate the union, called MNPCA, called the 2014 vote for representation by SEIU Healthcare Minnesota "a gross injustice" and unsuccessfully fought in the courts to overturn the union election and block the contract. The group needed 10,000 signatures to trigger a decertification vote, but fell short, said the Bureau, which oversees public sector collective bargaining in Minnesota.
"Even in the unlikely event that all the cards submitted by the anti-union campaign proved valid, they at best came up over 5,000 workers short of the "Showing of Interest," SEIU said in a statement.
Home care workers who support the union greeted the news with jubilation.
"This effort was never supported by a significant number of home care workers or the people with disabilities and seniors we serve," said LaTanya Hughes, a Minneapolis home care worker and union board member. "As the people actually affected, we all know that we need a powerful voice at the Capitol to address the home care crisis Minnesota is currently facing, and the only way we have that is by coming together. That voice, SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, worked tirelessly to reach a tentative agreement with the Department of Human Services to raise wages and other benefits for home care workers. It is unfortunate that there are people who disagree with increasing wages and benefits for growing workforce by trying to decertify the union and hamper efforts for our second contract."
Hughes, also a member of the union's bargaining team, said the tentative agreement makes "major strides forward in addressing the care crisis - a severe shortage of quality care workers because of low pay and few benefits - by raising the pay floor from $11 to $13, providing new funding for training and stipends to reward home care workers to improve their skill sets, more paid time off, two paid holidays for the first time ever, additional wage increases for workers providing care to the clients with the highest level of complex care needs, and more."
The next step with the tentative agreement will be a vote on it by union members. If approved, it would then go to the Minnesota Legislature for ratification and then to Governor Mark Dayton for his signature.
Shaquonica Johnson, a home care worker from West St. Paul and vice president of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, recalled the hard work that went into winning union representative.
“I remember like it was yesterday the excitement I felt on the morning, back in July 2014, when we filed our petition with BMS to request a union election," she said. "We brought them boxes and boxes of cards – from over 10,000 home care workers, from every corner of the state, wanting to form our union. I’m so proud of the work we’ve done since then to make progress for home care workers and the people we serve.
"And after many months and hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on anti-union mailings, slick videos, opinion pieces in the newspaper, and lawsuit after lawsuit after lawsuit, these anti-union groups still haven’t gotten through to even a third of the number of workers they would need to convince in order to get a new election. That should tell them everything they need to know about whether it makes sense to keep up their relentless attacks on a struggling workforce that is made up almost entirely of women. We want a union, we know we need a union, and we’re never going to let a bunch of lawyers and special interest groups take our union away from us.”
MNPCA may be backing away from its efforts, if a statement on its website is any indication. In appealing for signatures in support of decertification, the group said, "If we are not successful, it is unlikely we will ever have this opportunity again ..."