Agreement covers over 20,000 workers who provide care for Minnesota seniors and people with disabilities
SAINT PAUL — HF1434, the bill for the union contract that covers over 20,000 home care workers across Minnesota, moved successfully through its first two committees this week in the Minnesota House, with overwhelming bipartisan support Friday in the House State Government Committee with all but one member in the committee voting in support. The bill authors are Rep. Luke Frederick (DFL–Mankato) and Rep. Michael Nelson (DFL–Brooklyn Park) in the House and Senator Jeremy Miller (R–Winona) and Senator Jeff Howe (R–Rockville) in the Senate.
The agreement was reached between members of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota and the State of Minnesota 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 statewide home care workers’ union, includes gains such as a $15.25 minimum wage for all home care workers beginning July 1, 2022.
On Friday, at a hearing of the House State Government Finance committee, Damon Leivestad, a home care client was part of the bargaining team testified on why it is so critical that elected officials on both sides of the aisle support this bill:
“Without adequate care many people like me find it extremely difficult to recruit and retain homecare workers to help us with our basic needs, maintain a job, and be involved in our communities. In some instances we are left with no other option then to move into expensive nursing homes, group homes, or other long-term facilities,” said Leivestad. “By supporting the new tentative agreement between SEIU Healthcare Minnesota and the Department of Human Services we can move towards recognizing the critical work done by homecare workers and start paying them the livable wages and benefits they deserve. This will help thousands of disabled and elderly Minnesotans across the state who rely on homecare workers daily.”
Testifying at the Human Services Finance and Policy Committee hearing Thursday, home care worker Jacquelyn Kelly shared the importance of this contract for Minnesotans who provide or rely on care services to stay in their homes:
“As a parent of a teen quickly coming of age, I worry about worker shortages. I worry that if we are unable to provide a living wage, benefits or a viable long term career path, caregivers will choose to move into other employment situations that will provide more stability and less personal risk,” said Kelly, who provides care for her son who is Autistic and suffers from Major Depressive Disorder. “One of the ways our contract addresses this is by a wage increase to $15.25 an hour. Our caregivers need to earn a meaningful wage that allows them to take care of their families while they take care of mine.”
“If caregivers are stressed and worrying about their ability to get by it makes their jobs so much more difficult and outcomes for their clients much worse,” Kelly continued. “If we don’t take an investment in home care seriously we are sending the message to our disabled and elderly community members who rely on this care that they don’t have the right to decide what their quality of life looks like, and everyone should have that right.”
Also speaking at Thursday’s hearing was Brittanie Wilson, who utilizes home care services and spoke in support of the contract:
“I have relied on home care services since I was a teenager and I can definitively say that reliable and consistent home care is the reason I’ve been able to be so successful in a way that I choose. Fully funding the contract is a crucial step to make home care an industry that is viable. Viable to live off of and one that includes holiday pay, paid time off, training, and other incentives,” said Wilson. “At the end of the day you are funding much more than a contract. You are making a statement: one that says home care workers deserve to be fully supported for their skills and labor. One that says clients deserve to be safe and have agency in our own lives.”
The bill will continue to move through the House and Senate this legislative session, thanks to strong bipartisan support. If passed and signed by the Governor, the provisions in the contract will go into effect on July 1st, 2021.
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 where the final agreement was reached. Union home care workers overwhelmingly voted to ratify the tentative agreement in early February. 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.
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
SEIU Healthcare Minnesota represents over 40,000 healthcare and long term care workers in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and home care across Minnesota