She Never Joined a Union. But Union Fees Got Deducted From Her...

She Never Joined a Union. But Union Fees Got Deducted From Her Paycheck.

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Personal care assistant Patricia Johansen, right, says someone at an SEIU affiliate forged her signature. Johansen and Kris Greene, left, are taking legal action. (Photo: Kevin Mooney/The Daily Signal)

ST. PAUL, Minn.— Patricia Johansen has worked as a home caregiver for her two special-needs grandchildren for about 10 years.

Since she never agreed to join the union that represents such Medicaid-eligible caregivers in Minnesota, Johansen was surprised to discover that union dues had been deducted from her benefit check for about four months.

In an affidavit, the Fergus Falls resident says she is convinced the union, SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, forged her signature so it could start deducting the dues.

Johansen’s story is one reason a state lawmaker is scheduling a hearing where she expects the head of the state’s labor relations agency, a political appointee of Gov. Mark Dayton, to explain how SEIU Healthcare Minnesota won a unionization election—and why it should continue to represent the home caregivers.

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Someone signed Patricia Johansen’s name to this union form supporting and enrolling her in SEIU Healthcare Minnesota. (Photos: Kevin Mooney/The Daily Signal)

State Rep. Marion O’Neill, chairman of the Subcommittee on Employee Relations, told The Daily Signal that she wants the Dayton appointee to appear before the joint panel of the Minnesota House and Senate to address evidence of “fraudulent signatures, nonexistent voters, and ballot tampering” in a 2014 unionization election.

Johansen’s experience is one such discrepancy.

“We are going to have a full, robust hearing on how this process happened and have the personal care assistants come forward to talk about their experiences, and to talk about how it came to be that union dues were taken out of their paycheck without their knowledge or permission,” O’Neill, a Republican from Buffalo, said in an interview with The Daily Signal.

The SEIU affiliate collects $4 million to $5 million in annual dues from the Medicaid benefits paid to what Minnesota calls personal care assistants, a lawyer representing them estimates.

The state government considers residents who care for chronically ill or disabled relatives at home to be personal care assistants who are able to receive Medicaid benefits for providing that care.

As The Daily Signal previously reported, a relatively small number of Minnesota’s 27,000 eligible personal care assistants voted in favor of an affiliate of Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, becoming their representative in collective bargaining.

Now personal care assistants such as Johansen have banded together in an effort to set a new election to decertify SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, in part because of what their lawyers describe as questionable tactics and the evidence of fraud.

The Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services, a state agency that describes itself as promoting “stable and constructive labor-management relations,” has denied the caregivers’ petition for a new election.

O’Neill wants Commissioner Josh Tilsen, appointed in 2011 by Dayton, a Democrat, to lead the bureau, to explain its pro-SEIU actions so far.

A Grandmother’s Story

Johansen, 76, told The Daily Signal that, since she doesn’t use a computer, it wasn’t until after her son-in-law checked her account online that she realized the union already had been deducting dues for at least four months in 2015 without her awareness.

When Johansen contacted SEIU, she says, officials told her that they had her signature.

In her affidavit, a copy of which The Daily Signal obtained, Johansen says she “never signed any election authorization, SEIU membership, or dues deduction authorization card” for any union representative who came to her residence.

SEIU officials agreed to mail her a copy of the signature, Johansen told The Daily Signal, and it clearly wasn’t hers:

I’m left-handed, and the signature didn’t look anything like my real signature. The union asked me to send back a legal copy of my signature and get it notarized, which I did. I then got a letter back saying they would refund my dues.

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Patricia Johansen sent this notarized copy of her signature to SEIU Healthcare Minnesota to convince union officials she didn’t agree to join.

About 27,000 personal care assistants such as Johansen, widely known as PCAs, receive Medicaid payments under Minnesota’s PCA Choice program to care for disabled individuals, typically family members, in their private homes.

All 27,000 were eligible to vote in the 2014 election held by mail-in ballot, which asked whether they wanted to join SEIU Healthcare Minnesota and pay union dues. Of 5,849 PCAs who participated, 3,543 voted yes and 2,306 voted no, according to the Bureau of Mediation Services.

This means the votes of 13 percent of the state’s eligible PCAs unionized all 27,000. Under Minnesota law, SEIU needed only a majority of those who mailed in a ballot to vote yes.

No Comment From Governor, Union

Several PCAs who spoke with The Daily Signal in St. Paul earlier this month, however, said they didn’t receive a ballot in the mail.

Others, like Johansen, said dues were deducted from their Medicaid-funded paychecks even though they never joined the union or signed a form calling for the unionization election.

The Daily Signal has copies of 11 signed affidavits spelling out such allegations from personal care assistants in Minnesota, as well as canvassers who volunteered to collect signatures in the petition drive to decertify SEIU.

Using lists of personal care assistants and their addresses supplied by Tilsen’s agency, the volunteers say, they have encountered multiple nonexistent addresses as well as addresses where no resident was a PCA or the PCA listed no longer lives.

The Daily Signal on multiple occasions requested comment from a spokesman for SEIU Healthcare on the fraud allegations, the union’s actions, and other details, but has not received a response.

The Daily Signal also sought comment from Tilsen as well as Dayton or his staff, but has not received a response.

‘Here’s What’s Fishy’

In the 2010 and 2014 election cycles, Dayton received a total of $13,500 from SEIU and $17,500 from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME, according to public records available at FollowtheMoney.org.

In 2013, the governor signed into law a bill that, without Republican support, classified personal care assistants as public employees for the purposes of collective bargaining.

At the time, unlike now, Democrats were the majority in the Legislature. The next year, SEIU held the mail-in election to unionize PCAs.

The agency stipulates that signatures must be collected from 30 percent of the 27,000 personal care assistants before an election may be held either to approve or decertify SEIU. This means organizers of the new petition drive must collect 9,000 signatures.

Douglas Seaton, a Minneapolis lawyer pursuing litigation against the Dayton administration on behalf of seven personal care assistants, recruited volunteers to collect enough signatures to trigger a decertification election. Seaton’s plaintiffs and the volunteers are part of a coalition called Minnesota Personal Care Assistants, or MNPCA, that seeks to decertify SEIU Healthcare Minnesota.

Matt Patterson, executive director of the Center for Worker Freedom, a Washington-based affiliate of Americans for Tax Reform, joined the effort.

“Here’s what’s fishy to us,” Patterson said at a March 4 press conference in St. Paul attended by Johansen and other personal care assistants. “If the union was able to prove 9,000 PCAs wanted an election and had this 30 percent support, then why did only about 5,000 people vote, and from that figure why did only about 3,000 vote for the union? We’ve been asking to see these records.”

As of this week, Seaton and Patterson had collected more than 6,500 signatures from PCAs who support a new election. That’s more than the total who voted in the 2014 unionization election, and about twice the number who voted in favor of SEIU.

Union’s Own Probe ‘Inconclusive’

O’Neill told The Daily Signal that she expects Tilsen to produce relevant documents.

“I want to see all of the signed cards they collected [from PCAs] in order to hold the election, and I want documentation for them to prove how many ballots they actually sent out,” the state lawmaker said, referring to Tilsen’s agency. “They are required to send out ballots to all 27,000 personal care assistants.”

In her affidavit, Johansen says Phillip Cryan, executive director of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, wrote her that the union’s own investigation into the forgery of her signature turned out to be “inconclusive.”

The letter from SEIU official Phillip Cryan to Patricia Johansen. (Photo: Kevin Mooney/The Daily Signal)

The letter from SEIU official Phillip Cryan to Patricia Johansen.

But Cryan also “said he could see the difference in the signatures and would refund the dues,” according to Johansen’s affidavit.

He informed Johansen that SEIU was “quite sure they knew who” was responsible, and that the person no longer was with the union.

Ken McIntyre* contributed to this report.

  • bjpurg

    SEIU has always been and is a communist organization!! Thugs work in these unions and they need to go away!!

  • used_to_be_a_liberal

    It’s going to take a court room challenge to get this program reversed.

  • mary murphy

    These stories need to be told throughout all kinds of services that are unionized. If not, the unions continue to exert pressure on many who don’t want to be part of a union. Many years ago, my husband was trying to work his way through college by working full time and going to school full time. He was fortunate to get a job working in a grocery warehouse, but he was REQUIRED to join the Teamsters Union to work there. They took a large chunk of money out of each check. Needless to say, he would NOT work at another job that required you join a union from then on. He quit an engineering job and found another when he learned that he would be REQUIRED to join the union at that job.

  • R. T.

    Unions back things that are not good for America , example NAFTA , jobs leave America so you get to pay twice dues given as political ” donation ” then your job disappears !
    Unions more often than not back the unqualified and lazy !!!

  • ONLYJB1

    What happened to the steel workers? The textile workers? Manufacturing workers. All the shut down factories. All the lost jobs. The civil servant unions that find themselves broke and can’t pay their retirees. Such as Detroit, Chicago, Baltimore and many many more! Just what have unions done for the workers in the last 70 years. They’ve taken hard working American’s dollars and first lined their corrupt pockets and then gave the rest to the communist party of America. Totally becoming politicized in the process. Part of the swamp? You bet! Do they need to go down that drain? Yep, but better yet, done away with completely and those that have broken the laws need to meet with the swift arm of the law and let justice take it’s course.

  • Frederick Friaday

    Souns like the USW’s, whose local managed to extract an extra few dollars a month out of our paycheck for some bs reason which we never authorized with our signatures. And they have 2 billion in their fund. Greedy. To top it off, our jobs/company went to Mexico and we got no help from them.

  • Frederick Friaday

    And take Jimmy Hoffa, Jr with them.

  • ONLYJB1

    I’ve hated unions my entire adult life and that equals many years. They served a purpose for the workers many moons ago. I remember just a few years back, to make a negative comment about unions, YOU would receive DEATH THREATS. So the worm has turned. You whip a dog long enough he eventually will turn and bite!

  • Charlie Davenport

    Unions, notably the CWA, opposed TPP and NAFTA

  • Charlie Davenport

    Your capitalist friends took advantage of NAFTA and 20 other “free Trade” agreements to move jobs to Mexico, Canada, and overseas.

  • R. T.

    Must be one of the smart ones , the union I was in always supported democrats and always donated to ” citizens for blank ” to avoid directly donating to a candidate .

  • ONLYJB1

    Excuse me Couch? My capitalist friends! How do you know whom my friends or enemies are? Are you cia? fbi? hhs? If so I laugh. Can you hear me laugh Couch?

  • Charlie Davenport

    My irony too subtle? How about this? Your capitalist “friends” took advantage of NAFTA and 20 other “free
    Trade” agreements to move jobs to Mexico, Canada, and overseas.

  • Charlie Davenport

    Maybe could have said it this way….Your capitalist friends(?) took advantage of NAFTA and 20 other “free
    Trade” agreements to move jobs to Mexico, Canada, and overseas.

  • ONLYJB1

    Actually, these capitalist you refer to are businesses that used the opening of NAFTA and other stupid trade agreements to escape the corporate tax raping of illegal federal agencies. The US has the highest business tax rates in the entire world. I believe we will witness in the next 4 years the easing of this criminal taxation. Once that happens, we will see these companies return to America. Bringing with them money and jobs!

  • esquire2

    Cannot disagree with this assessment!
    Unions are “political”in nature, and most of their efforts are to “BUY” politicians …
    State, Local and Federal.

  • Charlie Davenport

    Somehow, with the “highest business tax rates in the entire world” corporate profits are at an all time high, and executive compensation is at an all time high. One quarter of corporations pay no taxes, due to armies of accountants. Plenty of loopholes, and part of the reason is shipping jobs and capital overseas; I don’t feel at all sorry for corporations; but its too complex to discuss here.

  • Rattlerjake

    ACTUALLY, it was YOUR Messiah Slick Willie that enacted NAFTA! AND when you claim that “capitalist ‘friends’ took advantage of NAFTA and 20 other ‘free Trade’ agreements to move jobs to Mexico, Canada, and overseas”, you should be saying were FORCED to take advantage of NAFTA just to stay in business. Libturds like you have absolutely no common sense or understanding of business!

  • Rattlerjake

    It’s ALWAYS too complex for a libturd to provide facts. There is a big difference between Corporations and smaller businesses. Most major corporations pay millions to lobby for the subsidies and tax breaks that they receive from the corrupt government. It is the smaller businesses that are forced to sell out, move overseas, or close down because they can’t afford “the army of accountants”. The more you open your mouth the dumber you prove yourself to be!

  • Rattlerjake

    Sadly today government unions have replaced most of the “private” unions. Government workers are aid far higher wages and salaries and receive excessive benefits because of the lobbying and the corruption of politicians. Businesses must work within their profit margins, government just borrows more fiat currency from the illegal federal reserve in the name of debt!

  • Charlie Davenport

    1) Clinton is not my Messiah; besides signing NAFTA, he repealed Glass-Stegall, initiated changes that made the USA the world’s leader in incarceration, and deregulated media, so now have have only six major players in the news business.
    2) NAFTA, CAFTA, CPTA, WTO, and more were negotiated at the behest of corporations; Obama’s recent Transpacific Partnership (TPP) was negotiated in secret with the input of 500 corporations, and no input by the elected representatives of Americans (Congress)
    3) Name calling does not contribute to the free exchange of ideas.