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Eighth Circuit Upholds Legality of Minnesota PCA Union

December 8, 2015

A Minnesota law that cleared the way for unionization of the state’s personal care attendant (PCA) workforce was upheld as constitutional by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit on December 3.

Shortly after Minnesota’s 27,000-member PCA workforce voted in favor of union representation by Service Employees Union International (SEIU) in 2014, six PCAs who opposed unionization sued the state, arguing that its 2013 law allowing PCAs to organize violated several federal and state statutes.

The case, Greene v. Dayton, was argued before a three-judge panel of the Eighth Circuit earlier this year. Attorneys for the plaintiffs argued that the law should be legally preempted by the federal National Labor Relations Act and by the “contract clause” in both the state and federal constitutions, among other statutes.

In its decision, the Eighth Circuit dismissed the plaintiffs’ arguments, affirming the constitutionality of the 2013 law and upholding — for now — the legality of the PCA union.

Separate Legal Challenge Looms

A different three-judge panel of the Eighth Circuit is expected to decide the case Bierman v. Dayton in the coming weeks. In that case, a group of nine PCAs represented by the anti-union group the National Right to Work Foundation argued that unionization violated their free speech rights under the First Amendment.

Both legal challenges to the PCA union were argued separately before the Eighth Circuit in October 2015.

“We are very excited to put [Greene v. Dayton] behind us and continue our work to improve our industry for thousands of families across Minnesota,” PCA Sumer Spika said in a statement.

Earlier this year, the first-ever contract between PCAs and Minnesota took effect. The contract will raise PCAs’ wage floor from $9/hour to $11/hour by 2016.

“Our work, done predominantly by women and people of color, has been undervalued for far too long,” Spika added. “With our union, we are beginning to fight back and ensure that workers and the people we serve have a voice, and we won’t let any lawsuit stop us.”

— by Matthew Ozga

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