Union Home Care Workers Vote to Ratify Agreement With State for Contract That Pushes Care Workers Minimum Wage Statewide Past $15 

Contract that covers over 20,000 workers now moves to legislature for funding and approva

SAINT PAUL — Home care workers with SEIU Healthcare Minnesota voted overwhelmingly to ratify their Tentative Agreement (TA) on Thursday evening. The agreement was reached with the State of Minnesota early in January and will, if ratified and funded by the legislature, bring in over $350 million in additional state and federal funding over the next four years for services for seniors and people with disabilities. The contract, the fourth between the state and the home care workers’ union, includes gains such as a $15.25 minimum wage for all home care workers beginning July 1, 2022. 

121192338_10158363049121928_1241633465322097222_oDawn Burnfin, a home care worker from Chisolm who was a member of the bargaining team, shared her excitement on the wage increases in the contract:

“The two things in this new contract that I am most excited for, that will directly benefit me, are the pay raise and the commitment from the state to work with us on finding a way to develop a tiered system of pay based on experience,” said Burnfin “The pay raise will help immediately, and a tiered system of pay that provides a reward for people who make home care their career would help retain high-quality PCA’s for the long haul.”

Highlights of the contract include:

  • Minimum wage increased from $13.25 to $14.40 in October 2021 and to $15.25 in July 2022, a 15% increase
  • More Paid Time Off: accrual rate improved from 1 hour per 40 hours worked to 1 hour per 30 hours worked
  • Two new floating holidays paid at time-and-a-half each year, allowing home care workers to receive extra pay when their clients need care on religious holidays for the first time, and bringing the total time-and-a-half holidays in the union contract each year to 7
  • Added funding to provide trainings and $500 stipends for home care workers who complete a set of training courses, to enhance the quality of care they provide to people with disabilities and seniors
  • Concrete steps toward further professionalization of the Minnesota home care workforce in the future, such as establishing a higher wage for long-time/experienced home care workers and providing better orientation to new home care workers

 

Antonietta Giovanni, a home care worker in Minneapolis who cares for her son, shared why she voted to ratify the contract:

“The increase in training would be very beneficial to healthcare workers because it will equip PCA workers with the tools they need to do this critical job. For my family’s care, home care workers need to know about convulsions to keep my son safe,” said Giovanni. “This is also the case for Minnesotans who need feeding tubes, lifting or other care. This will help address the health and safety of the individual and also the caregiver.”

Now that the Tentative Agreement has been ratified by Union members, it will 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, 2021, with some of its economic provisions taking effect on October 1st. 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.

Jim Carlisle, a client from West St. Paul who was on the bargaining team, shared the importance of this contract for people who rely on home care services to live their lives: 

“As a person needing to employ home care workers, I find it extremely helpful to be able to encourage my caregivers by guaranteeing them a $1.15 hourly raise in Oct. and another 5.9% increase in July 2022,” said Carlisle. “These hikes will make caregivers’ wages more competitive with package handlers’ wages. I think the essential care of people with disabilities is worth at least as much as the delivery of essential products.” 

The bargaining team — made up of home care workers, clients and family caregivers — negotiated with the state over four months to reach this agreement, culminating in an 18-hour bargaining session on January 15th. Even before COVID, thousands of families across Minnesota were struggling with a care crisis causing seniors and people with disabilities to not be able to find workers to provide the care they need to stay safely in their homes. 

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SEIU Healthcare Minnesota represents over 40,000 healthcare and long term care workers in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and home care across Minnesota

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