SAINT PAUL — Late Monday night the home care workers of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota reached a Tentative Agreement (TA) with the state of Minnesota for their third union contract, a two-year contract that would begin in July of 2019.
The bargaining team — made up of home care workers, clients and family caregivers — negotiated with the state over three months to reach this agreement. The bargaining team fought to address the care crisis, a workforce shortage that has grown to over 8,000 openings because of the low wages and lack of benefits for this work. This crisis continues to result in seniors and people with disabilities not being able to find workers to provide the care that they need to stay safely in their homes.
The full details of the TA won’t be shared until members have a chance to see the tentative agreement and vote on its approval, but highlights include funding so reimbursement rates and client budgets will go up 2.37% for everyone, with those making the minimum wage seeing a 10.4% wage increase from $12 to $13.25; $750,000 for trainings and orientation to help workers gain and build skills; increased Paid Time Off; and an additional increase in wages for workers serving clients who need the highest hours of care.
Dalene Annen, a home care worker on the bargaining team from rural Minnesota, shared her feelings about the tentative agreement as someone who does this critical work.
“The work done by home care workers is critical for thousands of families across Minnesota, which is why we fight so hard to improve our industry. We’re proud of the gains that we’ve made in this contract, but we know that we have a lot more work to do to get the kind of wages, benefits and recognition that can fix the care crisis,” said Annen, who lives in Winnebago, a small town near the Iowa border. “The money we secured for home care workers and our clients will help to make a more dedicated workforce and move us to our goal of making sure that every Minnesotan– no where we live, the color of our skin, or our income– can get quality care to be able to stay in their homes and not be forced into institutions. Because we’ve stuck together, caregivers are getting better wages and benefits than we had before.”
If the Tentative Agreement gets ratified by Union members, it will then go to the legislature for their approval and funding. The final step would be having it signed by Governor Walz and go into effect July 1st, 2019. The negotiations took place in the months preceding budget negotiations in order to ensure that legislators have the opportunity to review the terms of the proposed agreement and vote on whether to ratify it.
Lauren Thompson, a client who was on the bargaining team, stressed the importance of the legislature ratifying the agreement once it gains approval from home care workers.
“After years of under investment in this workforce, and undervaluing the people who rely on these services, this contract is a step towards addressing the care crisis. Elected officials statewide must look beyond party lines and understand the importance of investing in home care. It is a matter of dignity and quality of life, it is a matter of survival,” said Thompson. “Home care workers, clients and our families will be at the Capitol this session to make sure that the contract gets ratified and that these gains are upheld. We will continue to strive for better wages, benefits and professional standards that home care workers deserve. This is vital so that I, and the thousands of other Minnesotans like me, will be able to survive and thrive in our homes and in our community.”
The SEIU Minnesota State Council coordinates the electoral, legislative and outreach work of the SEIU Locals in Minnesota to increase the effectiveness of their efforts to organize unorganized workers in critical sectors of our economy, improve wages, hours and working conditions, and build political and legislative power for all workers and their families. The State Council’s board is comprised of elected leaders, SEIU members and staff of the various SEIU Local Unions in Minnesota, and that board, with the active participation and input of our broader membership, determines our endorsements.