Home care workers find getting out harder than getting in union

Renee Katz has one question for the Service Employees International Union: What part of “no” don’t you understand?

“I can’t get out of it. They want me to now do some letter and certify mail it. They didn’t certify mail anything to me. And then every time I call or email, they try to talk me into staying,” said Katz.

The Oakdale mother works part-time as a personal care assistant for her special needs daughter and other care recipients through subsidized programs designed to avoid institutionalized care. She was outraged to learn 3 percent of their gross wages would be taken for dues for a union she didn’t realized she joined.

Her hard-line response stands out because Katz comes from a pro-union family.

“We’re a huge union family. My husband’s union is wonderful,” Katz said. “… It’s not that I don’t believe in unions. It’s just not right for me. I don’t want to be part of the union, I don’t need it.”

Katz failed to realize she became a member in February 2014 when she signed a card supporting an election to form a union. More than 9,000 PCAs signed the same card, though just 3,500 ultimately voted to form the union, approved in a low-turnout vote in August.

"I guess it's not just me, because I thought, 'Oh, what a dummy.' But it's just the way they went about it."

Emails Katz traded with SEIU representatives -- shared with Watchdog Minnesota Bureau -- provide an unusual window into the rocky rollout of the home-care worker union's first contract that took effect July 1.

"What is the process to rescind my union membership? I have emailed a couple of times and called the SEIU to opt out of the union, and it does not seem to get me anywhere," Katz wrote in an email to SEIU Healthcare Minnesota's Member Action Center.

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