Contract wins include paid time off, higher wage floor, workplace protections, training fund and more for 27,000 workers represented
St. Paul, MN – After years of advocacy by home care workers and the people they support, today marks the first day of the historic home care union contract. After voting last year to form their union and join Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare Minnesota, home care workers reached an agreement with the state in January on this first contract for the 27,000 workers in the new bargaining unit. The agreement was ratified by union members and by the Minnesota Legislature as part of the Health and Human Services (HHS) omnibus budget bill.
When home care workers were fighting at the Capitol to gain the right to form their union, the pay floor was $6.15. In surveys conducted by the union, over 20% of workers said they had lost wages for hours worked at some point as a home care worker. They also noted the lack of training despite the importance of their work. The contract that takes effect today lifts the current wage floor of $9.00 up to $11.00 per hour by the end of the contract, provides funding for training and gives workers protections against wage theft and other pay errors. Home care workers will also earn paid time off (PTO) for every hour they work, at the rate of five days per year for a full time worker.
Dawn Lindberg, a home care worker from Minneapolis who cares for her mother, stressed the importance of this contract for both home care workers – the fastest-growing job in the country — and the people they support.
“I promised my mom that I would do everything I could to keep her in her home, and I intend to keep that promise,” said Lindberg. “Like tens of thousands of others across the state, my mother needs the support of a home care worker to stay in her home. Despite the importance of our work, for too long it has been undervalued and kept in the shadows. We even have experienced a 21% funding cut at one point to close a budget hole, simply because we didn’t have a unified voice to fight back. This contract is an amazing first step in our work to stop the constant turnover in the workforce that is so harmful to those receiving care. With PTO, a higher wage floor, training and other gains won by this contract, we are starting the process of treating this important work in a the way it should be treated.”
Sumer Spika is a home care worker from St. Paul who was part of the bargaining team for negotiations with the state and a leader of the campaign to win the right to vote to form a union. She is most excited that the contract provides five days of paid time off per year for full-time home care workers, something sorely lacking in a workforce of approximately 90% women.
“It is amazing that we will begin accruing PTO, something I know is incredibly important. Last year my daughter was in the hospital for over three weeks with a respiratory illness, and with no PTO, my family felt the stress that too many families have had to face,” Spika stated. “Like most home care workers, I love my job, and I’m so happy that we have made this huge step to ensure our work is invisible no more. No one should have to choose between caring for their sick children and paying the bills, and this part of the contract is an important step towards fixing one of the many injustices facing the workers like me who care for seniors and people with disabilities across our state. We are so excited for this contract to start, and ready to continue fighting to improve the home care industry in Minnesota.”
After fighting for years to make their work “invisible no more,” home care workers won the right to vote whether to form a union during the 2013 legislative session. In August of 2014 they voted decisively to form their union, which will represent all workers in the bargaining unit, but has voluntary membership. The contract is the first new union contract with the state of Minnesota in decades. (More detailed information on the contract is available by request)
SEIU Healthcare Minnesota unites more than 42,000 healthcare and long-term care workers in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and home care throughout the state of Minnesota. SEIU represents more than 60,000 members across Minnesota and is a powerful voice working to improve the lives of all Minnesotans.