As Care Crisis Continues, Minnesota Home Care Workers Fight to Improve Lives of Seniors and People with Disabilities

Union home care workers speak out before negotiations begin for 2nd contract with the state

Saint Paul – Home care workers and clients came together Wednesday at the Capitol to highlight the care crisis facing seniors and people with disabilities in Minnesota. The event came just days before home care workers with SEIU Healthcare Minnesota begin their contract negotiations with the State of Minnesota, with a goal of making real strides in addressing the growing crisis.

HCW_Press_Nicki_rsSpeakers Wednesday included Nikki Villiavicencio, a home care client who lives with her family in Maplewood. She told about the need for the state to recognize the growing importance of this work for the lives of seniors and people with disabilities.

“We’re here today because it’s time for Minnesota to take the home care crisis seriously. SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, Governor Dayton and Minnesota legislators have an opportunity to address the home care workforce crisis through contract negotiations,” said Villavicencio. “The crisis isn’t that people need care — it’s not a crisis that I need someone to help me shower in the morning — the crisis is that Minnesota leaders have not valued people with disabilities and home care workers enough.

“Everyone in Minnesota deserves to be able to choose home care,” Villavicencio continued. “It’s not a workable choice right now for many because there is a huge shortage of reliable, quality home care workers. Low wages, no benefits or training — including caps on overtime and hours — and a general disrespect for the challenging work of care giving means many people don’t stay in the job for long.”

Also speaking was Jasmine Laducer-Kitto, a home care worker who has cared for her client Scott for 11 years.

“I truly believe home care has kept Scott alive, not just physically, but mentally and spiritually as well. Scott needs 24 hour a day care and, even with me working reliably for 11 years, he has had far too many other PCAs coming in and out. Most don’t stay long. I even left a few months ago for a better paying job,” said Laducer-Kitto.  “I came back to Scott a few weeks ago because I feel a sense of respect and appreciation from Scott and his family. What Scott has, I want that for everyone in Minnesota. No matter who you are, if you become disabled and need care you should be able to choose whether or not it’s in your home. We all should be able to receive services knowing that our workers job and life is being valued at the same time.”

Home care workers like Corey Van Denburgh highlighted how this crisis needs the attention of elected officials in Minnesota, many of whom are running to serve in the 2017-2018 Legislature that will help determine if our state begins to address this crisis.

“People with disabilities are not receiving all of the care they need. Our loved ones’ health is being put at risk. Children with special needs, like my siblings, are not succeeding in school. We are hoping that during negotiations our elected leaders can recognize and feel the gravity of the crisis that we are in,” said Van Denburgh, before addressing the main goals of the contract campaign. “Investing in the workforce is the only solution—our proposals will include raising the home care minimum wage to $15 an hour, providing PCAs the ability to work overtime to meet clients’ needs and for training and orientation to make sure that the people doing this work are well prepared to provide the necessary quality care.”

The negotiations with the state begin on Friday, and will continue throughout the fall. A new agreement would need to be ratified by the Legislature and signed by Governor Dayton as part of the 2017-2018 budget during the coming session.

Home care workers voted in 2014 to form their Union, and negotiated a historic first contract that covered the 2015-2016 budget years. That contract won five paid sick days (the first time many home care workers have had any paid sick time), an increase in the pay floor to $11, and free CPR, First Aid and other trainings for home care workers to help improve care for seniors and people with disabilities. SEIU Healthcare Minnesota represents over 20,000 home care workers across the state.

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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.

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