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Federal Appeals Court Hears Challenges to Minnesota PCA Union

October 26, 2015

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit heard two separate cases on October 21 challenging the legality of a recently formed union of personal care attendants (PCAs) in Minnesota.

The estimated 27,000-member PCA workforce voted in favor of representation by Service Employees International Union in August 2014. Earlier this year, the union negotiated a contract with the state that will raise hourly wages from $9 to $11 and will give workers the opportunity to accumulate paid leave for the first time.

But the union has faced consistent legal challenges from anti-labor organizations such as the National Right to Work Foundation (NRWF), which brought one of the two lawsuits challenging its legality to the Eighth Circuit.

Attorneys from the NRWF argued that PCAs should not have been allowed to unionize and negotiate with the state because they are not full-fledged public employees, even though they are paid by the state’s consumer-directed Medicaid program.

The NRWF argued on behalf of nine PCAs who oppose “forced union ‘representation’ to the state about positions they do not endorse,” attorney Doug Seaton told WCCO-AM.

However, membership in the Minnesota PCA union is entirely voluntary, and, due to the U.S. Supreme Court‘s 2014 decision in the case Harris v. Quinn, nonmembers can no longer be compelled to pay “fair share” dues.

Many PCAs and their consumers rallied in St. Paul to show their support for the union during the hearings by the Eighth Circuit, which is located in St. Louis, Missouri.

“It is wrong that extremists are trying to take away our union,” said PCA Francis Hall, who earlier this year became the first PCA in Minnesota history to be paid for a day off. “We’re going to stick together and keep fighting.”

— by Matthew Ozga

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