Brooklyn Center, Minn – Following the first ever Summit on Direct Support Workforce, home care workers and clients spoke out about what is needed to truly address the growing crisis facing care work in Minnesota that was continually highlighted at the summit. The summit was hosted by the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS).
Among the 200+ participants Tuesday was Richard Monks, a home care worker from Shoreview and a member of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota.
“It was clear after today’s summit that everyone is on the same page about the core issue driving the care crisis, which is the low wages many caregivers receive. Facing this reality, home care workers across the state with SEIU will be pushing for the Fight for $15 in our coming contract to begin addressing this emergency,” said Monks. “To really make certain all Minnesotans receive the care they deserve, and to take a big step towards addressing our care crisis, we need to value this work. One of the main components needs to be providing funding in the state budget and raising the wages of the people caring for seniors and people with disabilities across Minnesota.”
One of the panelists speaking at the summit was Nikki Villavicencio, a home care client and mother from Maplewood.
“Home care needs to be treated as a real career. Home care workers need livable wages, access to the materials and training they need, and support from their peers,” said Villavicencio in her remarks to the summit. “Home care workers are my bridge to the community. People with disabilities need to be fully integrated into society, in truly meaningful ways. Without my home care worker, I can’t leave my house in the morning. I can’t be an active member of my community.”
Pattie Urie, a home care worker from St. Paul and a member of the SEIU Healthcare Minnesota union, attended the summit Tuesday.
“I am a mother who provides home care services for my daughter, and I also hire others to assist in providing care when I cannot,” said Urie. “I know firsthand how important it is to have properly trained home care workers across the state, and how proper training can and will help to strengthen our industry.
“As we talk about steps forward to address our crisis, making sure everyone in our industry has comprehensive training is so important, which is why our union fought to get funding into our first contract for free CPR and first aid training for thousands of home care workers starting next month,” Urie continued. “We need to make sure these jobs are valued so that those receiving care are able to live with dignity in their homes.”
Also attending the event was Sumer Spika, a home care worker from St. Paul and an elected Vice President of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota.
“Today was an important day that highlighted what thousands of families already know: There is a crisis in the home care field in Minnesota,” said Spika. “I am glad that home care workers and clients attended today as we see every day the implications of this crisis. I hope that in the future there will continue to be opportunities for families directly impacted by the care crisis to have a voice in crafting solutions.
“While it was good that we talked today about things like raising wages and building on the training fund we won in our first contract, we also need to deal with the immediate crisis of capped hours caused by the state not providing funding to come into compliance with federal overtime law,” Spika added. “This is hurting clients and hurting workers right now, and we need to work to fix both the long-term crisis facing seniors and people with disabilities who deserve good care, but also the current crisis that is causing so much pain for families across the state.”
In addition to home care workers and clients, members of the TakeAction Minnesota Senior caucus joined the event in their work to address the care crisis facing our state.
“As a leader with the TakeAction Minnesota Senior Caucus, we’ve held listening sessions across the state and know that finding caregivers to provide the services needed is challenging and something we are fighting to address,” said Bob Robbins, a leader in the senior caucus. “We’ve heard of home care workers leaving jobs because a big box store pays better, and this only makes the care crisis worse. 10,000 people day are retiring across the country, so this is not an issue we can wait to address.”
SEIU Healthcare Minnesota unites more than 35,000 healthcare and long-term care workers in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and home care throughout the state of Minnesota.