After Tumultuous End to Legislative Session, Home Care Workers Celebrate Ratification of New Agreement – And Resolve to Fight for Full Funding to be Restored

New union contract raises pay floor, increases paid time off, grants holiday pay for the first time, funds training, and more, to help address care crisis facing seniors and people with disabilities across Minnesota

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Care workers and clients express frustration at anti-union group who attacked care workers, leading to a cut of half of the desperately needed funding, vow to continue fight to solve the state’s care crisis

Saint Paul — Home care workers and the state of Minnesota reached a new agreement for a union contract that covers approximately 27,000 Minnesota home care workers, with union members ratifying the contract Monday evening after a week of voting. The new contract will go into effect on July 1st.  The two sides had to negotiate a new contract after elected officials cut funding in half for the previous tentative agreement in the final Health and Human Services (HHS) Omnibus budget bill that was passed by the State House and Senate and signed into law by Governor Dayton late last month.

2015 Scott_VivianThe decrease in funding, which will slow the work being done to address the care crisis facing seniors and people with disabilities across Minnesota, came after repeated attacks on care workers and their clients from anti-union attorney Doug Seaton and the Center of the American Experiment. In legislative testimony, these groups – which have run a large-scale campaign since last summer to stop the union from negotiating a new agreement – advocated that legislators vote down raises and new benefits for home care workers. In expressing their anger at the reduction in funding that came as a result of these anti-union groups’ attacks, home care workers vowed to continue their fight next session, to restore funding to address the care crisis in Minnesota.

“So many good people all across the state worked hard pushing our elected officials to address the care crisis that is harming thousands of families like mine. Home care workers and clients like me negotiated in good faith earlier this year, but at the very end of the legislative session politicians decided to only fund half of what we had agreed to with the state, which is incredibly frustrating,” said Jim Carlisle, a home care client who counts on care for himself and his wife to be able to stay in their home. “We made some important steps forward in this new agreement, but the crisis in our state is well beyond the point where any half-measures will suffice.”

“This is, without exaggeration, a life or death situation for someone like me who relies on quality caregivers to get out of bed and do basic tasks like eating and leaving my house,” Carlisle continued.  “I’m proud we won the gains we did, but we are still a long way from where we need to be. What we’ve proven over the last few months is that we won’t let any attacks or setbacks stop us. We will fight to ensure every person who needs care has access to quality caregivers.”

Despite the challenges of fighting frivolous lawsuits and attacks from deep-pocketed special interest groups, union members expressed pride in the tireless effort put forward by people across the state to bring attention to the care crisis.

“Progress simply would not have happened without our union. We are so happy that we have a collective voice in this critical fight,” said Yasmine Soud Reynolds, a home care worker from White Bear Lake. “By coming together as home care workers, family members and clients from across the state, we have made it clear to everyone that we will be invisible no more. Because we worked together and told our stories, we had a group of legislators from both political parties author the bills to ratify and fund the original agreement we reached with the state in January. When some union-busting lawyers tried to block that bipartisan support for the wage and benefit improvements we so desperately need, the only reason we were able to resist their efforts and still make progress through this new agreement is that we stayed united. They were able to get elected officials to reduce the funding, but they weren’t able to stop us from moving forward.  We’ll be back next session to keep pushing for our state to address the care crisis, starting with restoring the funding lawmakers just cut.”

With the funding cut in half, the union’s bargaining team of workers, parents and clients had to go back to the bargaining table and reach a new agreement with the state, after engaging thousands of members in a difficult discussion of how to balance priorities. The new agreement was ratified after a week of voting that ended Monday evening.

Provisions of the new contract include:

  • A $1 an hour increase to the minimum wage for home care workers (the new floor is $12)
  • Time-and-a-half pay for workers who take care of their clients on five holidays, a benefit no home care workers in the state have had before
  • An increase in the amount of Paid Time Off home care workers earn
  • Training stipends for 5,000 workers who take voluntary trainings to build their skills in order to provide higher quality care
  • An online matching registry to help address the struggle clients face when trying to find quality care workers to bring into their homes
  • A 5% additional increase for those who work for the highest-need clients (defined as those who qualify for 12 or more hours per day of in-home care)

While proud of the gains, Delores Flynn, whose 46-year-old son Scott needs full time care after suffering a major brain hemorrhage, vowed that families will be back next session to demand that the funding lawmakers cut be restored

We will continue to fight until every Minnesotan who needs care has access to the quality care they need to stay in their home. We expect politicians to do right by restoring the funding they cut,” said Flynn, who lives in Roseville. “There is a crisis happening across our state. If this crisis hasn’t touched you or someone you love yet, it will. When it does, you will realize that this isn’t an issue we can ignore. With the coming wave of baby boomers who will want quality care to stay in their homes, this crisis is only going to grow if it is not truly addressed. Care work should not be a political issue, but it is frustrating that money desperately needed by our families was caught up in political games. We cannot risk having people with disabilities and seniors go without the care they need due to the chronic shortage of workers. It is far more expensive to care for people in a facility than it is providing care for them in their homes. Elected officials from all parties should make restoring the home care funding they cut the very first bill they pass when they come back to St. Paul.”

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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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