SEIU MN State Council
Media Relations Coordinator
Saint Paul, Minn—The 2018 legislative session ended without any new investments in home care work, despite high profile attention to a care crisis that is affecting seniors and people with disabilities across the state. The crisis was front-page news with stories highlighting the fact that there are over 8,000 vacancies in the state’s personal care attendant programs due to low wages and lack of benefits.
While disappointed about the lack of investment in care work, home care workers with SEIU did praise legislators from both parties for standing up to protect their union rights from those who attempted to weaken them this session.
“Minnesotans want a state where our loved ones can get the care they need and deserve in their own homes. Home care workers and our clients came to the Capitol throughout the session to make sure our elected officials understood the crisis facing families in every corner of the state,” said Dawn Burnfin, a mother and home care worker from Chisholm in Northern Minnesota and elected member of the SEIU Healthcare Minnesota executive board. “Make no mistake, inaction means more pain, frustration and heartache for families across Minnesota. This is wrong and we will mobilize home care workers to make sure legislators understand the need for investments in care between now and the November elections.”
The advocacy by SEIU Healthcare Minnesota members, seniors and people with disabilities generated bi-partisan support to raise wages, with bills being introduced in both the House and Senate. Money for a pay increase was included in Governor Dayton’s proposed budget. Despite broad support for the issue, the pay raises were not included in the final budget bill. This inaction has caused frustration for the thousands of families across the state personally affected by this growing crisis.
“While I’m extremely disappointed we didn’t win steps forward for our families around home care funding, it serves as a reminder about the importance of elections and getting people into office who share our values around the care and dignity of our families,” said Delores Flynn, a Union supporter and mother and caretaker of an adult son who needs 24-hour care to stay in his home. “I’m ready to work as hard as possible to make sure we have people in office who understand the challenges facing families like mine.”
Following session, Delores joined home care workers, clients, faith, labor and community organizations in launching a “Care Voter” effort for the 2018 election. The “Care Voter” initiative will seek to mobilize voters to educate candidates and fellow voters about ways the next legislature can support care givers and the people they care for. The “Care Voter” initiative will be a key part of SEIU’s member electoral program this fall and summer.
Albert Lea, Minn — After a contentious, multi-year fight, members of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota who work at the Albert Lea Mayo Hospital have reached an agreement with Mayo Clinic. The two sides reached a tentative agreement the week of May 7th for both groups of workers (general group and skilled maintenance) that have been without contracts for nearly two years.
After giving members time to look over the tentative agreement, a majority of SEIU members voted to approve the plan Monday. The agreement came following members authorizing a second strike in a vote in late April. With a possible second, longer strike looming, the two sides were able to reach an agreement that found both sides compromising at the May bargaining sessions.
Workers expressed pride in standing up for good jobs and quality rural healthcare, even as Mayo dug in on certain policy proposals that the group had hoped to stop.
“Being able to win really good pay raises and making sure our contract does not include a subcontracting clause for skilled maintenance jobs were big wins,” said Nate Johnson, Chief Engineer and 20-year Mayo employee. “We wish we had been able to get them to move on everything we wanted, but I’m incredibly proud that we stood up for what is right and won the positive changes that we did. We hope we showed other workers, both here in Albert Lea and across the state, that there is power in standing up for what is right for working families.”
The groups won pay increases ranging from 7.25% to 10% over the three years of the contract. While Mayo won the right to change four core benefits during the term of the contract, workers won a contract provision that those benefits will be offered to all full-time and part-time (.5 and over) employees during the term of the contract, an important win for members. The contract also included protections and support for workers who may have to transition to Austin, even as the union continues to oppose any reductions in staff or services in Albert Lea. It also preserved holiday pay, which was one of the driving issues behind the Dec. 22nd strike and Christmas lockout.
“We took a stand, against the odds, because we believed that the work we do in our community hospital is important for our families, our neighbors and our communities,” said Sheri Wichmann, who has worked in sterile processing for 18 years. “Going on strike and being locked out showed we firmly believed in our fight for good jobs and good healthcare here in Albert Lea. We remain committed to those values. While you always wish you had been able to win everything you set out for at the start, we are proud we were able to move Mayo on important issues facing our families and community.”
As part of the agreement, both sides agreed to drop NLRB charges against the other.
SEIU Healthcare Minnesota represents over 35,000 healthcare and long term care workers in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and home care across Minnesota.