Proposal comes as seniors and people with disabilities in Minnesota face an ongoing care crisis that has grown to 8,000 unfilled job openings caused by low wages
SAINT PAUL – On Wednesday afternoon, at their most recent bargaining session with the state of Minnesota, the bargaining team for the home care workers with SEIU Healthcare Minnesota presented a proposal to bring all home care workers in the bargaining unit to at least $15 per hour during the next two-year contract they are currently negotiating. The home care bargaining team includes workers, clients and family members of seniors and people with disabilities who receive care services.
The current contract, which covers nearly 30,000 home care workers across the state, sets the wage floor for this critical work at $12 per hour. Because of the low pay, seniors and people with disabilities are facing a care crisis that has grown to the point where there is a workforce shortage that is causing Minnesotans to not get the care they need to stay in their homes. According to the state, there are over 8,000 unfilled home care jobs in Minnesota – and a need for an additional 68,000 workers over the coming years. The state will be considering their proposal as negotiations move forward in the coming weeks, but members of the bargaining team spoke Wednesday to share why this proposal is so important to thousands of families across Minnesota.
Lauren Thompson is a home care client and a member of the bargaining team that is pushing for a minimum wage of at least $15 per hour.
“Knowing that good PCAs have to often leave because the pay isn’t enough to make ends meet is frustrating. To not invest in the PCA workforce is to not invest in my wellbeing and the wellbeing of thousands of Minnesotans. It is hard to not take that personally when these issues impact me every day. The care crisis has impacted what I can do and how I can do it. I have become less confident about myself and what I can do in general,” said Thompson, who has cerebral palsy. “Think about everything you did today and what it would mean to need help to do all those things. This is what it’s like for many of us. Think about how you’d want to be cared for, and the people you want taking care of you.
“A minimum wage of at least $15 an hour would start to create a stronger workforce,” Thompson continued. “It would mean that good PCAs would be able to keep working. Ultimately that means that we can get better, more consistent care so we can all be more independent and healthy in life. I feel like I can’t live the life that I should until PCAs are paid a minimum of at least $15. I hope Gov. Walz and our legislature really think about this, because anyone could one day rely on personal care assistance to live your life.”
Patsy Gibson, a home care worker from Bloomington, shared the challenges that the low wages pose to Minnesota home care workers who care for seniors and people with disabilities across the state:
“You’re doing this work because you love what you’re doing, but you need a fair wage to take care of yourself. This system takes advantage of people who love what they do, knowing we won’t stop caring for our clients even if it hurts our health. My job is to care for others and I can’t afford my deduction for my prescription,” said Gibson. “Without fair wages and better training we are losing valuable people in such an important profession. I really hope our government is aware of what is happening. Next week it could be your mother, father, son or daughter who needs care and has to deal with this crisis. Wouldn’t you want them to be able to stay in their home? This fight is so important to everyone. When we say we can only afford to pay poverty wages it means people’s lives are at stake. We need our governor and elected officials to help us get to a decent living wage.”
Dalene Annen lives in Winnebago on the southern border of Minnesota. She does home care work and also has family members who receive care and shared what the care crisis means to families in Greater Minnesota:
“We have a huge shortage of care workers in south central Minnesota where I live. If we can win at least a $15 minimum wage in our new contract, it will give good people an incentive to be home care workers instead of choosing to work at the grocery store or fast food because they pay more,” said Annen. “Family members of mine aren’t able to find the caregivers they need. One of my family members saw hundreds of hours go unused last year because of the shortage of care workers in my area. That means hours they needed care simply weren’t filled because no one would work them. This is happening all over the state because of the low wages. If there were higher wages and better training, I believe more people would be willing to do this work and stay on the job, which would help so many families. With wages starting at $15, we can start making this important work feel like a career. If that happens, we will be closer to being a state where everyone — no matter where you live — is able to know their loved one is getting quality care.”
The proposal comes on the heels of both Minneapolis and St. Paul passing a phased-in $15 minimum wage for workers in their cities. With raises started in Minneapolis and coming within the year in St. Paul, the rates of pay (Medicaid funding) set by the state for home care services will need to keep up with the rising minimum wage to ensure there are no issues for the thousands of care workers who work in the two largest cities in the state.
The two sides have multiple negotiations set up over the coming weeks in order to reach an agreement before Gov. Walz presents his first budget in February. To build support for higher wages for home care workers and better conditions for the seniors and people with disabilities who receive care, there will be a #ValueHomeCare rally at the Capitol on January 31st.
SEIU Healthcare Minnesota represents healthcare and long term care workers in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and home care across Minnesota.