This week, the Minnesota Legislature narrowly passed a landmark law that would allow unions to organize workers who provide in-home health care, giving a victory to organized labor. By a vote of 68-66, Minnesota's House of Representatives passed legislation that would amend state law and allow unions to negotiate on behalf of providers whose clients receive government subsidies. Minnesota's Senate already passed the bill, and Governor Mark Dayton's office has indicated that he will sign the bill into law.
The Minnesota Legislature's action marks a victory for organized labor at a time when it has suffered a series of setbacks in other states' legislatures — in the form of right-to-work legislation and measures that restrict bargaining rights for public workers. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) supported the legislation, and the SEIU estimates it will allow between 12,000 and 15,000 personal care attendants and child care workers to decide whether they want union representation. Under the new law, the organizing process would have to be completed within the next four years.
Personal care attendants and child care workers covered by the law are paid through public programs like Medicaid, and the legislation amended Minnesota law to make clear that the state — not the individual receiving services — is the employer of those individuals. Opponents of the legislation claim it will force small child-care providers who do not want union representation to either join the union and pay mandatory dues or turn away clients.