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Judge Rejects Another Challenge to Minn. Home Care Union

October 29, 2014

Minnesota’s Chief U.S. District Judge on October 22 rejected an injunction that would have halted collective bargaining between the state and a newly formed union of personal care assistants (PCAs).

The National Right to Work Foundation (NRWF), an anti-union organization based in Virginia, sought the injunction, arguing collective bargaining would violate the First Amendment rights of PCAs who did not want to be part of the union.

The district judge, Michael Davis, rejected that argument, noting that the decision to unionize was put to a fair, democratic vote. He also pointed out that, following the U.S. Supreme Court‘s recent ruling in the case Harris v. Quinn, PCAs who oppose unionization do not even have to pay dues.

Elsewhere in his 25-page decision, Davis wrote that allowing PCAs to collectively bargain would ultimately help home care consumers.

“The public has a strong interest in improving the home care program by reducing turnover, attracting more qualified providers, and ultimately, enabling better home-based care to individuals with disabilities and the elderly,” he wrote in his decision.

A Newly Formed Union

On August 26, the state’s PCA workforce, which provides consumer-directed home care, voted in favor of representation by Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

Of the state’s 27,000 PCAs, nearly 6,000 cast votes, with the pro-union side garnering approximately 60 percent of submitted ballots.

The NRWF tried to disqualify the vote before the ballots were counted, arguing that a potential vote in favor of unionization would have violated the First Amendment rights of workers who opposed joining a union.

Judge Davis rejected that argument on August 20, but ruled that “if, after all the votes are counted, the SEIU is certified as the exclusive representative, plaintiffs may renew their challenge.”

Following this latest decision on the matter, Peter Rachleff, a retired labor history professor, told the Star Tribune that Davis’s decision was “crystal clear that the unionization of health care providers is legal, and there are no grounds left in court to block this unionization.”

The NRWF may appeal to the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the Star Tribune reported.

— by Matthew Ozga

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