After winning the support of only 13 percent of state-subsidized home health care providers, Minnesota granted exclusive bargaining rights for nearly 27,000 workers to Service Employees International Union Local 113.
Out of the 26,977 providers who were eligible to vote in the election, the union won the votes of 3,543, the state Bureau of Mediation Services reported Tuesday. Another 2,306 voted for no representation. Because the election is determined by the majority of votes cast — even if only a fraction vote — Local 113 was declared the winner.
The union will now be the sole representative for all providers in dealings with the state. The providers work at home, often their own home, taking care of the elderly and infirm, and benefit from the state's Child Care Assistance Program.
Gov. Mark Dayton, a Democrat, first made the providers eligible for unionization in a 2011 executive order. Because the workers accept state subsidies, they were deemed public sector employees — but only for the purposes of unionization. They got no other benefits reserved for state employees.
The order specified that the state have an election to determine whether SEIU or the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees became the workers' representative.
The union's victory was tempered by the Supreme Court's June ruling in Harris v. Quinn, which said that home care providers in a similar Illinois program were not state employees, and therefore not eligible to be public sector union members.
In a July 7 letter to the state Management and Budget Commissioner Jim Schowalter, SEIU Healthcare Minnesota president Jamie Gulley said it would not require non-members to pay fair-share dues. The letter appears to be an effort to prevent any legal challenges to the determination that the providers are public sector workers by allowing non-supporters to opt-out.