A federal appeals court gave organized labor and its allies in Minnesota state government a legal victory Thursday, upholding the dismissal of a lawsuit aimed at undoing a 2013 law allowing personal care attendants to unionize.
Personal care attendants, who help the aged and people with disabilities remain in their homes and out of expensive institutions, make up one of the fastest-growing and lowest-paid job categories in both Minnesota and the nation. After the law passed in the final hours of the 2013 legislative session, workers voted to form a collective bargaining unit with Service Employees International Union.
Although the PCAs are not state workers, state money goes to families and often to for-profit care companies to pay the workers.
The plaintiffs, a group that includes people whose family members have disabilities, do not want union involvement in their relations with the PCAs who care for their loved ones.
The legal fight, which involves complex issues around the rights of workers to form labor unions, has also been a highly charged political battle from the start.
A release from plaintiffs on the day of oral arguments in October said victory would mean PCAs “will be able to run their own lives, employment relationships, and businesses again, and the corrupt influence of union money in politics will be dramatically reduced.”
The union reacted in kind with Thursday’s verdict by a three-judge panel from the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. “The dismissal of the lawsuit from extremists intent on destroying our union is good news for home care clients and workers in Minnesota,” said Sumer Spika, vice president of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota and who works in home care, in a statement.
Douglas Seaton, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said the setback is not unexpected. A decision about another appeal will come in the next two weeks, he said.
Seaton said the legal issues most likely will require an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. “That’s the court that makes these kinds of calls,” he said.
The first SEIU contract for PCAs took effect in July, guaranteeing a wage floor of $10.75 per hour, paid time off, a new grievance process and a training program. The contract covers 27,000 workers.