Two Minnesota homecare providers alleged Saturday that their signatures were forged by their union so it could automatically deduct membership dues from the subsidy checks they got under a state program. The providers alleged that they didn’t even the know the money was being taken out of their checks until months afterwards.

Patricia Johansen, a provider from Fergus Falls, Minn., who helps take care of two special needs grandkids, said she never signed a card authorizing the union, SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, to make the deductions. Yet it made the deductions for four months before she caught on. When she complained to an SEIU official, she was told that they had her signature on file.

“The signature did not look anything like mine. I’m left-handed,” Johnansen told the Washington Examiner. Whoever had signed her name was apparently right-handed. The union later told her that they had dismissed the signature gatherer that had turned in the fake authorization card. It told her that this situation had happened with this person “only a couple of times.”

Another homecare provider, Holly, who asked that her last name not be used, said she turned away an SEIU Healthcare Minnesota official when she was approached at the home of the woman she took care of. Holly didn’t believe that it could improve her working conditions. Two months later she realized that money was being taken out of her checks anyway. “I never signed anything,” she said.

Repeated efforts to get the union to stop the deductions failed. “Eventually I had to forward the emails I was sending to the union to my employer and tell them to stop making the deductions,” Holly said.

A spokesperson for SEIU Healthcare Minnesota could not be reached for comment.

The homecare providers made the allegations at an event hosted by MNPCA, a group attempting to decertify SEIU Healthcare Minnesota as the providers’ union. The event was co-hosted by the Center for the American Experiment, a free market Minnesota think tank, and the Center for Worker Freedom, an arm of the conservative group Americans for Tax Reform.

Other providers at the event said that the union tried everything from hard-sell tactics to outright misrepresentations to get them to agree to having dues deducted. “The SEIU hasn’t done anything for me except come between me and my daughter,” said Kris Greene, a Minneapolis provider.

The homecare providers were unionized in 2014 after the then-Democrat-led state legislature passed a law declaring that the homecare providers, who are subsidized through a combination of state and federal funds, were public employees that could be unionized. This was despite the fact that most providers take care of invalid family members at their home. The providers were not made public employees in terms of qualifying for pensions, healthcare or other state programs.

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This change came after a long lobbying effort by SEIU Healthcare Minnesota. The union then won a mail-ballot election to be the providers’ official representative. Of the 27,000 providers in the subsidy program, only 3,500 — about 13 percent — voted in favor of a union. However, since that was the majority of the 5,800 who did vote, the union won.

The 2014 Supreme Court case Harris v. Quinn found that state homecare providers cannot be forced to support a union because they are not truly public sector employees. However the justices’ decision did allow the workers to voluntarily join unions. The workers at the Saturday event argued that the union has exploited that loophole by trying to trick providers into signing dues-deduction cards.

If a Minnesota worker signs a dues-deduction card, that legally entitles the union to up to 3 percent of their subsidy, up to a maximum of just under $1,000 annually. This is supposedly to recompense the union for collective bargaining on the providers’ behalf. Providers are only allowed to opt-out of paying the dues during a single two-week period once a year. If they miss that their membership is automatically re-upped for another year.

“If not for the Harris v. Quinn case I would be paying union dues higher than the dues my (public school) teacher friends pay to their union. That is highly suspicious to me,” said Catherine Hunter, a Burnsville, Minn., provider and former teacher.

While Hunter doesn’t pay the union anything now she still wants it decertified because she fears it will disrupt the program she and her son depend on. She notes, for example, that the union is now requesting that funds be diverted into new training programs that she believes are just a pretext for handing the money over to the union.

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“They still represent me before the state so everything they do affects me,” Hunter said.

NCPA attorney Doug Seaton noted that the union claimed prior to the election to have turned in to the state 9,000 signed cards from workers claiming that they wanted union. The signed cards were required to force the mail-in election. “We have very good reason to believe that many of those cards were forged,” said Seaton, pointing to the fact that 9,000 were supposedly signed by homecare providers but only 5,800 actually bothered to vote.

Seaton said his group has requested the list of state homecare providers in order to contact them and pursue the decertification effort but the state has been only minimally cooperative. While it has provided lists, it has provided seven versions to date, each supposed updated and different from the previous one.

“This is like being in a football game where they change the rules each quarter,” Seaton said.

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