Union promotes push to organize PCAs

Ziggy Norberg was born with spina bifida. He supports letting PCAs, including his mother, form a union. (MPR News Photo/Mark Zdechlik)

The Service Employees International Union says it plans to soon begin collecting signatures in an effort to unionize up to 15,000 personal care attendants (PCAs) working in Minnesota.

The union plans start collecting unionization cards this fall. Supporters of a union say it could help increase wages and facilitate better training.  The workers won legislative approval to unionize this past spring, along with some home-based child care providers.

The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals yesterday granted an injunction temporarily blocking the day care union effort, but the court’s action did not apply to personal care attendants, who provide home care for people with disabilities or chronic illnesses.

Several attendants and the people they care for held a news conference Friday to promote the unionization effort. Among them was Ziggy Norberg, 19,  of Mounds View who was born with spina bifida.

“I believe if we improve their working conditions then that improves my living conditions,” Norberg said.

Karen Urman is Norberg’s mother and his personal care attendant.

“It is crucial that we attract and retain home care workers so that when the day comes that he needs to find someone else to be his PCA he’ll be able to find someone who takes it as seriously as I do,” Urman said.

The first steps in the unionization effort  already underway according to SEIU President Jamie Gulley

“We expect the formal processing of collecting cards later this fall,” Gulley said.  ”We’ve been talking to home care workers all summer long and are continuing to do that, but this is the highest priority for our union is making sure that we see this process through for the home care workers.”

Some critics say if personal care attendants are unionized, money that would otherwise go directly to care will end up going to the union, but unlike in the case of in-home day care unions, no one has filed a lawsuit to prevent unionizing PCAs in Minnesota.