St. Paul, MN – On Friday, Governor Mark Dayton signed a bill which grants a historic expansion of collective bargaining rights for Minnesota workers.
“I am so excited to have our bill signed by Governor Dayton,” said Sumer Spika, a personal care attendant (PCA) from St. Paul. “We – the PCAs and other home care workers – fought so hard to get this bill passed and now we get to begin the process of forming a union so that the job of being a PCA is professionalized, and the benefits and pay we deserve can be attained. Thanks to everyone that was involved in any way, we couldn’t have done it without each and every one of you!”
“I am so excited to see this last step in giving us the right to choose for ourselves,” said Darleen Henry, a 23-year-old home care worker from Rosemount who cares for her mom. “It makes this all so real. To say I’m excited is an understatement. I, like so many other PCAs, spent countless hours and days at hearings and the final debate, all which was time spent away from caring for my mom, because I believe so strongly about how a union could benefits our lives. Hard work and dedication truly pay off.”
The bill was passed by both the House and Senate after more than 27 hours of combined debate. With the Governor’s signature, self-directed PCAs in public programs now have the right to collectively bargain with the state for better wages, benefits and standards. These PCAs who are hired directly by their clients previously did not have the right to form a union under state law – this bill recognizes their right to do so if they choose.
Now, the approximately 12,000 PCAs who are covered under the bill can start the process of holding an election to vote on a union. As other states in the Midwest make moves to limit the rights of workers to collectively bargain, workers in Minnesota are elated to see this move to expand workers’ rights.
“I work hard as a PCA,” said Vicki Dewald, a home care worker from Detroit Lakes. “My work helps the state save countless dollars that would be spent on a long-term care institution if I wasn’t there to work with my grandson and keep him living independently. By forming a union we can improve conditions for workers, which will keep good PCAs and improve the quality of care clients receive. We should have a say in the programs that benefit us all.”
A study from the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute (PHI), the nation’s leading authority on the direct care workforce, released a report in January which showed a looming workforce crisis and a care gap of thousands of workers in Minnesota. In other states were self-directed PCAs have organized, there has been a reduction in worker turnover a stabilization of the workforce. Workers and participants there have also seen an increased access to services, better wages and benefits, the creation of registry and referral services, greater access to training and a voice on the job.
“I want to send a huge thanks to Sen. Sandy Pappas and Rep. Michael Nelson for defending us home care workers hour after hour, day after day during each of the hearings,” said Henry. “I’ve been personally working towards this right to form a union for more than a year. This is something we have wanted and deserved for a very long time, and I am glad to see all the hard work pay off.”
“Workers need the chance to come together to work for better wages, access to benefits and access to training,” said Jim Lovold, a disability advocate who receives PCA services. “When I do find people to work for me they almost always leave to go do something where they make more money. This bill gives advocates who use self-directed services and the people who work for us a voice in fixing the system.”
SEIU Healthcare Minnesota unites more than 15,000 healthcare and long-term care workers in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and home care throughout the state of Minnesota. SEIU represents more than 30,000 members across Minnesota and is a powerful voice working to improve the lives of all Minnesotans.