ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — A federal Appeals Court in St. Paul Wednesday heard arguments challenging a Minnesota law that helped create a union representing home care workers.
For the first time, workers in Minnesota who care for disabled and elderly people now have an $11 minimum wage, and paid time off.
But critics say the union violates the rights of workers who don't want "forced union 'representation' to the state about positions they do not endorse," according to their attorney Doug Seaton. He says de-certifying the union will reduce "the corrupt influence of union money in politics."
The Minnesota Legislature passed the law allowing the workers to organize a union, and joining it is voluntary.
Francis Hall, a home care worker in Crosby, Minnesota, last week became the first home care worker in Minnesota to take a day off, with pay. She cares for a terminally ill stepson, and says she hasn't had a paid day off in 15 years.
"It was awesome," she said. "I went out and bought a new pair of shoes -- for the first time. I mean, I hadn't had any time off, at all."
Hall is one of thousands of home workers who care for the elderly and disabled -- many of them family members.
Union care workers rallied at federal court in St. Paul, joined by people they work for -- who say their lives without the union personal care attendants would suffer.
"My life would go from very active but very complex, to isolating and exhausting," said Nikki Villavencio, who is in a wheelchair and who lives in Maplewood.
But not all home care workers feel that way. Kris Greene cares for her 23-year old daughter Meredee, who suffers from a rare illness that requires 24 hour care.
"I just don't want the union to represent me," said Greene, who lives in Lakeville. "I'm just a mother taking care of her daughter. I'm very thankful for what the state has given me to help her, and I don't think the union needs to come in and represent me on that."
The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) represents the home care workers. The same law that allowed home care workers to form a union is also behind a union drive by home day care workers. That union organizing is also being challenged in court.
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