On June 10, 1992, I gave birth to my daughter Meredie.
She was a beautiful baby girl; my husband, Dave, and I couldn’t have been happier or prouder. When we were told that Meredie suffered from Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome, we knew we were in for some unique challenges. But we also knew having her in our lives was more than worth it.
Five years ago, I joined a Minnesota program and became a personal care assistant (PCA) to my daughter. Though I had been caring for her for her entire life, joining this PCA program allowed us to receive a modest Medicaid subsidy to assist in her care. It also allowed Meredie to live at home, instead of in a government-run institution.
My husband and I consider this public support a generous gift that we have not taken for granted and for which we are very grateful. Meredie continues to live at home with us, where we know she is happy and safe under our care, instead of with a stranger who may or may not have her best interests at heart.
Unfortunately, this wonderful program is being looted by a third party that has no business intruding in the affairs of my family: the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
A few years ago, the Minnesota Legislature passed a law declaring me and other PCAs “public employees.” The reasoning, I suppose, is that we receive some public support and that, therefore, we work for the state. That’s ridiculous, of course. I work for my daughter, not the state of Minnesota.
So why would the Legislature pass such a law, especially since we are not entitled to the pension or health care benefits that regular public employee have access to?
The answer is written right there in the law itself. We are considered public employees only for purposes of “collective bargaining.” In other words, only so that politicians in St. Paul can force us into a union. And that’s exactly what they did.
Soon thousands of us received SEIU “ballots” in the mail to have a union election. Many PCAs disregarded these ballots, thinking them junk mail. In the end, the vast majority couldn’t have cared less about a union — only about 5,800 of 27,000 filled out and mailed in their ballots. And only 3,500 of those voted “yes” on the SEIU.
But thanks to those 3,500 union supporters, all 27,000 of us have been forced into a collective-bargaining agreement. The SEIU is now the “exclusive bargaining representative” of Minnesota PCAs, and it’s now confiscating 3 percent of members’ Medicaid subsidy.
Think about that. This union is taking 3 percent of the public money that is supposed to go to the disabled and the families struggling to care for them.
The good news is that, thanks to the U.S. Supreme Court, no PCA can be forced to pay dues. But I wonder how many of the PCAs who are paying dues to the SEIU know that they don’t have to?
So PCAs outraged by the union exploitation, myself included, have launched a campaign to legally decertify the SEIU as our bargaining representative. To do that, we must collect some 9,000 signatures from fellow PCAs by the end of November.
We’ve started our own website, MNPCA.org, to spread the news that we PCAs don’t need a union and that we have a legal remedy for this outrageous scam. We hope it will become an organization that will serve as a resource for PCAs for information and advice, as well as a voice for our needs in St. Paul.
But first, we have to beat this union. They’re taking millions of dollars from us, millions of dollars from our vulnerable children and millions of dollars from the generous taxpayers who wanted to help us. That’s not only wrong, it’s downright rude.
Kris Greene lives in Lakeville.