Issues

SEIU Minnesota State Council call on Bloomington City Attorney to Drop Charges Against #BlackLivesMatter Activists

The following resolution was passed at the SEIU Minnesota State Council Executive Board meeting calling on Bloomington City Attorney Sandra Johnson to drop charges against the 11 #BlackLivesMatter members who were part of the peaceful protest at the Mall of America on December 20, 2014:

 Having the right to take part in peaceful, non-violent protest is an essential part of any Democracy. Throughout history, many important victories have been won because brave women and men were willing to raise their voices and push back against the status quo. Any attempts to chill free speech will harm us all.

 At a time of staggering racial inequalities, the #BlackLivesMatter movement is using their voices to shine a light on structural racism in our society and the harm it causes to families: the physical, economic, emotional and spiritual damage to our sisters and brothers here in Minnesota and across the country.

 The decision by Bloomington City Attorney Sandra Johnson to prosecute protest organizers is wrong. We should be having thoughtful dialogue on how to close the painful racial inequalities that plague our communities, not spending time criminalizing peaceful protesters. We urge Sandra Johnson to do the right thing and drop the charges against these peaceful activists.

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U of MN Workers Attend Regent Vote at the Capitol and Call for Stronger Faculty and Community Voice

Faculty, Staff and Students engage Regent candidates in dialogue as they await the Legislature’s vote

St. Paul – Faculty, staff, and students from the University of Minnesota showed up at the Capitol on Wednesday evening to talk to candidates for the U of MN Board of Regents about the importance of soliciting input from faculty and students. As Regents awaited the outcomes of their elections inside the House chamber, University faculty, staff and students gathered in the hallway under a large print-out of the University’s mission statement and made themselves available to speak with candidates.  Faculty decided to invite Regents into dialogue after attending the Higher Education Committee hearing, which they felt revealed a troubling disconnect between Regent candidates and the people of the University they seek to govern.

UofM_LogoMany in attendance stressed the U’s land grant tradition and encouraged the Regents to defend this legacy from various threats. Harry Boyte, a Senior Fellow at the Humphrey Institute, observed that the land grant tradition means that universities are “owned by the whole people” and embody the idea of democratic excellence. At the heart of this idea is “that a diverse mix of people from many different backgrounds interacting and cooperating in learning and discovery can achieve greatness that a focus on individual stars and ‘the best and the brightest’ never can accomplish.”

This land grant tradition, argued Professor Karen-Sue Taussig, means that the U is not a business but a public trust. “I have become increasingly concerned that the administration and regents treat the U like just any other business rather than recognizing the distinctive public role the university plays in creating the kind of thoughtful, well-rounded and engaged educated citizenry that is essential to maintaining a vibrant democracy.”

The need to broadly educate citizens and serve an increasingly diverse populace was another recurring theme at the event. Student Alexandra Vagac noted that the U has a responsibility to provide a quality education to students regardless of their degree path. “When private dollars flood public education we begin to see situations like that of the Chicano and Latino/a Studies Department at the U, which is consistently underfunded compared to other ‘more profitable’ departments.” Echoing this point, Professor Irene Duranczyk observed that by “closing departments that embrace diversity” and that prepare Minnesotans to thrive in an increasingly diverse global society, “we are taking another step backward, away from our mission.”

In carrying out their duties, Professor Naomi Scheman emphasized that Regents should understand that they “are entrusted with the care of the University, and fulfilling that trust requires knowing about the history and the culture of the U and the complexities of the relationships with it and with diverse communities around the state, and protecting those relationships from being defined in narrowly economic terms.”

Faculty expressed hope that the conversations at the Capitol were just the first of many conversations with Regents. “Right now it seems to me that Regents mostly sit in rooms with administrators and digest reports and Powerpoint presentations designed to present a pre-packaged narrative about what’s happening at the U,” said Professor Teri Caraway. “Regents will carry out their public responsibilities more effectively if they actively solicit input from faculty and students about what is going on at the U.”

Faculty organized this event as part of their ongoing work to build a faculty union to increase faculty and employee voice in decision-making at the University of Minnesota.

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U of MN Academics United is the faculty union forming to represent faculty and professional employees at the University of Minnesota. It is affiliated with SEIU Local 284, which represents over 7,000 education workers statewide, including the recently unionized adjunct faculty at Hamline University

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During National School Breakfast Week, St. Cloud School Staff Join Fight for Universal Breakfast Proposal

New Video Highlights Need for Statewide Legislation

St Paul, MN —  School cafeteria workers and members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 284 released a video this week urging legislators to pass legislation to provide free breakfast for all elementary students.

As part of National School Breakfast Week (March 2nd- 6th), Westwood Elementary cafeteria workers in St. Cloud were featured in a new video to promote the proposal for expanded free school breakfast. Lori Smith, Jackie Gall and Jo Bouer are urging fellow union members, school support staff and members of the public to join the campaign to fight hunger in schools.

Hundreds of members of SEIU will be at the Capitol on Wednesday March 4th to fight for policies that help working families, including the universal breakfast proposal. This bill would increase support for Minnesota’s neediest students and improve academic performance. School support staff from across the state will also be talking to legislators about improving the equity in school funding.

“I’m more than a lunch lady. I’m a community advocate, a union leader and a concerned parent,” said Lori Smith, a cafeteria staff worker at Westwood Elementary School in St. Cloud. “Too many students in our community come to school hungry and I’m fighting to change that.”

Research by the University of Minnesota showed that children who go to school hungry are also twice as likely to need special counseling and to repeat a grade,  and three times more likely to be suspended from school. In addition, childhood food insecurity costs Minnesota about $642 million annually in direct costs as children experience illness when they are not adequately fed.

“We all know there is a direct negative impact on a child’s ability to learn who is in the classroom hungry. Yet it happens every day in every single school district in our state,” stated SEIU Local 284 Executive Director Carol Nieters. “It’s time Minnesota does the right thing to ensure that every child has what they need to succeed to start their school day. A free breakfast for all children in Minnesota is a good start.”

Governor Mark Dayton made an expansion of the breakfast program part of his budget proposal for K-3rd grade. Senate Bill 344 & House Bill 671 would expand free breakfast through elementary school. Currently, kindergarten students receive free breakfast at school.

 

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SEIU 284 represents 8700 bus drivers, paraprofessionals, food service workers, early learning employees, clerical staff and custodians throughout the state of Minnesota. 

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School Support Staff Comment on Senate ‘excellence in Education’ Package

St Paul, MN — School support staff and members of SEIU Local 284 praised the “Excellence in Education” package released today. The goal of the collected bills is to close the achievement gap by increasing support and equity for all school districts.  (more…)

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Legislative Agenda

Providing Economic Security for All Americans

Issue:Drivers Licenses for All

Why it Matters: Having the freedom to learn the rules of the road and earn a drivers license is an important part of being a full member of society. Being able to obtain a license is key to being able to engage as part of our community. With our current laws, undocumented families are not given this opportunity. All Minnesotans should have the ability to earn a drivers licenses without regard to immigration status.

Details/More Info: Minnesota immigrants explain why they support driver’s licenses for all

 

Issue:Funding for Long-Term Care Facilities

Why it Matters: Long-term care facilities deliver essential services for our aging population across the state, but without additional funding, they will be hard pressed to attract and retain workers to provide quality care to our growing senior population, especially in rural parts of our state. The new system should not promote a two-tiered workforce where housekeeping and dietary staff are treated significantly different from other caregivers. In addition, the new system should maintain protections that direct revenues to better wages/benefits and provide a strong worker voice in how those revenues are distributed.

 

Issue:Retirement Security

Why it Matters:We are facing a crisis of retirement insecurity in our state and country, with nearly one million Minnesota workers having no retirement savings options through their employer, and of these, barely one in twenty save for retirement outside of work. As a result, hundreds of thousands of Minnesota households nearing or at retirement age (55+) have no retirement savings to speak of, and face the prospect of living in or near poverty on nothing but Social Security, or continuing to work indefinitely into their retirement years. Minnesota must do better for our workers who have spent a lifetime working hard and playing by the rules in the hopes that they might to be able to enjoy their retirement years.

Details/More Info: Fact Sheet on Minnesota Secure Choice Retirement Savings Act; AARP Fact Sheet

 

RAISING WAGES AND IMPROVING WORKPLACE STANDARDS

Issue:Labor Law Enforcement

Why it Matters: At a time when workers are increasingly falling behind and executive pay is at record high, it is more important than ever that we enforce the laws that are already on the books. This means pushing to improve, implement and make certain laws are being followed to prevent employer retaliation, wage theft and abuses around family and medical leave.

 

Issue:Earned Sick & Safe Time

Why it Matters: Minnesota families should not have to choose between taking care of their families health or making the money needed to put food on the table. When someone doesn’t have earned sick and safe time, they are forced to make this heartbreaking decision. In addition, many of the workers who lack sick time work are concentrated in the service industry, which means that if they have no choice but to work it can cause public health issues. Passing a bill for earned sick (for health issues) and safe (for issues like domestic violence) time will be a boost to thousands of working families in our state.

 

Issue:Fair Scheduling

Why it Matters:Increasingly, corporations are using “flex scheduling” to increase their bottom line. This practice means workers don’t find out if they are working until the last minute, sometimes even after they show up for their shift. This causes undue hardship for those who need to arrange childcare, rely on public transportation and for the majority of workers in low-wage jobs who need to have a second or third job just to pay the bills. A fair scheduling law would call on employers to give their workers fair notice on when, and for how long, they will be working each shift.

Details/More Info: Airserv workers take on company’s ‘standby’ scheduling

 

PROTECTING AND EXPANDING OUR DEMOCRACY

Issue:Voting Rights Expansion

Why it Matters: Minnesota has a long and rich history as being at the top of the list for voter turnout, but we still have nearly half of the eligible voters stay home on Election Day 2014. There are ways to catch those who may not have voted, including early voting and vote by mail, which can ensure that as many Minnesotans as possible are taking part in our Democracy. We also have laws that continue to punish those who have committed a crime but are no longer incarcerated. Voting is an important part of our social fabric, and working to promote voting rights restoration for the tens of thousands of Minnesotans currently denied the right to vote will only serve to strengthen our communities and our state.

Details/More Info: Second Chance Coalition

 

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Home Care Workers and State of Minnesota Reach Agreement on First Contract

Members to vote on contract in coming weeks

St. Paul, MN – Home care workers and the state of Minnesota have reached an agreement on a first contract for the 27,000 home care workers represented by SEIU Healthcare Minnesota. The tentative agreement will be brought to members of the union for ratification in the coming weeks. If members vote to approve it, the Legislature will then vote on its ratification.

HCW_Capitol_Rally_rsWhen home care workers were fighting at the Capitol to get the right to form their union, the pay floor was $6.15. In surveys conducted by the union, over 20% of workers said they had lost wages at some point as a home care worker. Workers also noted the lack of training they receive, despite their important work. The contract that workers will be voting on would move the floor to $11.00 per hour, provides funding for training and gives workers protections against situations where they are not paid for their work.

Francis Hall, a home care worker from Crosby and also a member of the bargaining team, stressed the importance of this contract for both home care workers – the fastest-growing job in the country –  and the clients they serve.

“For too long we have had to fight against the notion that care work isn’t ‘real work,’ from a lack of respect, fair pay or any benefits,” Hall said. “Our clients depend on us to be there to support them, and we love the work we do. But there is constant turnover in our field, because workers can’t afford to make ends meet on poverty wages and no benefits. This undermines the quality of care our clients receive. Home care workers, like workers in other low-wage industries who have raised their voices for a more fair society, are fighting to live, not just survive. This contract is a critical step towards that goal, but we know that our work of winning dignity, respect and a decent livelihood for home care workers has just begun.”

Sumer Spika is a home care worker from St. Paul who was part of the bargaining team for negotiations with the state and a leader of the campaign to win the right to vote to form a union. She highlighted the fact that the contract provides five days of paid time off per year for full-time home care workers, something sorely lacking in a workforce of approximately 90% women.

“This contract provides for five days of PTO for home care workers, something I know is incredibly important. My daughter was recently in the hospital for over three weeks with a respiratory illness, and with no PTO, my family felt the stress that too many families have had to face,” Spika stated. “No one should have to choose between caring for their sick children and paying the bills, and this part of the contract is an important step towards fixing one of the many injustices facing the workers like me who care for seniors and people with disabilities across our state.”

Nikki Villavicencio, a home care recipient from Maplewood who was part of the bargaining team, spoke about what the contract will mean for those who receive home care services.

“I am proud of this agreement and glad that it is included the Governor’s budget, so we know it won’t take funding from other vital services”,” said Villavicencio. “My family will benefit from the increased stability that will come with a higher pay floor, paid time off, new training funds and the other benefits that this contract will provide the workers who care for us.  In addition to being the first choice of most families, we know that home and community based services that home care workers provide will save the state money over having seniors and people with disabilities go into institutions. This is an important step in our fight, so that both workers and care recipients like my family can finally live the lives we choose.”

After fighting for years to make their work “invisible no more,” home care workers won the right to vote whether to form a union during the 2013 legislative session. In August of 2014 they voted decisively to form their union, which will represent all workers in the bargaining unit, but has voluntary membership. If approved by members and the legislature, this tentative agreement will become the first new union contract with the state of Minnesota in decades.

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 SEIU Healthcare Minnesota unites more than 42,000 healthcare and long-term care workers in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and home care throughout the state of Minnesota. SEIU represents more than 57,000 members across Minnesota and is a powerful voice working to improve the lives of all Minnesotans.

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Home Care Contract

My name is Linda and I live in Crosby, Minnesota. I have been a home care worker for over eight years, and I am part of a statewide movement of home care workers and clients who are working to get our first contract ratified by the State Legislature.

I know how important home care workers are to seniors and people with disabilities across Minnesota. One client I had for four years asked me to spend time with them when they were passing away from their illness. For another client I was able to save their life by being there when they went into a coma.

But home care work is much deeper than these exceptional moments. I’ve worked incredibly hard to ensure that people who otherwise would be in an institution were able to stay in their homes and have the dignity and comfort that they deserve.

I believe all of my clients would tell you I am great at what I do, but home care workers like myself face a constant struggle because of the low pay and lack of benefits. I love the work, but sometimes I don’t get to take care of my family or myself because I have to work so many hours just to make ends meet.

I’ve had clients that I’ve had to drive 40 miles, each way, to take care of without being reimbursed. When my husband was injured recently, we were stretched incredibly thin just to pay our bills. My fifteen year old son wants to go to drivers ed, but we can’t afford the classes.

I would like enough pay and a chance for retirement, so I don’t have to work until I’m 100. I’d like benefits like sick days so I can take care of my family if something happens. It is a scary situation to be one sickness or missed paycheck away from losing everything. I recently had knee surgery and was supposed to rest for 2 weeks, but because we needed the money, I went back to work after only three days.

This has to change.

That is why we believe that home care workers and the people we serve deserve to live the lives we choose.

That is why we fought at the Capitol in 2013 to have the chance to vote for a union, and why this last summer thousands of home care workers voted yes to joining SEIU Healthcare Minnesota. Now, we are negotiating a contract with the State and need the Minnesota Legislature to ratify our contract.

We’ve fought so hard to make this work more visable, but we need to get our first contract to begin seeing the changes we so desperately need in our field.

I don’t want any more home care workers to have to quit because of low pay and lack of benefits and stability, and I don’t want any more home care clients to have to suffer from the fear that the instability caused by these conditions could undercut the support they need to live independently.

Join me in urging our legislators to ratify a strong first contract so home care workers and the people we serve can live the lives we choose!

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Minneapolis Airport Workers Win Groundbreaking Paid Sick Time Policy

One week after large protest, the Metropolitan Airports Commission pass policy that will benefit hundreds of workers at MSP

Minneapolis, MN – Airport workers employed by sub-contractors for airlines like Delta won an important victory Monday when the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) voted unanimously to pass a policy requiring contractors to provide paid sick time to workers, a move the Commission said was the first for a Minnesota jurisdiction. The vote came just one week after hundreds of workers and supporters flooded the airport for a protest that called for $15 and a union, paid sick leave, fair scheduling and an end to firing and intimidation. The paid sick policy requires that contractors provide one hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked, and will go into effect in January. The policy allows usage if the employee or a family member is sick, and allows for paid leave in the case of sexual assault or domestic abuse.

UnionAdvocate_AirportSuado Gabow is one of the workers who is part of the fight that won this important victory, and is leading on the continued work for $15 and a union.

“We are proud that after years of fighting, and just one week after a big protest, we took a big step forward today by winning paid sick days for thousands airport workers,” said Gabow, a wheelchair assistant at Delta sub-contractor Air Serv. “We still are fighting to raise our minimum-wage pay and improve other working conditions, but knowing that if myself or my daughter gets sick I don’t have to choose between health and a paycheck is a really big deal.”

At the meeting, dozens of workers and supporters stood holding signs from previous protests that said “Still Waiting for Paid Sick Days” while the Commission heard testimony from Kip Hedges, the worker Delta fired for speaking out about wages, and Air Serv workers who advocated for passing the paid sick policy. Hundreds of Air Serv workers do essential jobs such as cabin cleaning and supporting seniors and passengers with disabilities as cart drivers and wheel chair assistants. Despite this important work, most are paid minimum wage with virtually no benefits, training or support. Workers have been coming together over the last few years in their fight to join a union to address these issues, and this victory is an important step for the campaign. Before the vote to pass the paid sick policy, MAC Commissioner Erica Prosser noted that if all airport employees were granted the right to collectively bargain, workers would be able to bargain themselves and the MAC would not find itself in the position to have to craft policies like paid sick leave.

After the meeting, workers celebrated the victory and committed to using the momentum from this victory in their continued fight for $15 and a union. A growing coalition of labor, faith and community groups continue to advocate at the Capitol for Earned Safe and Sick time for all Minnesota workers.

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SEIU Local 26 is Minnesota’s Property Services Union, uniting more than 6,000 janitors, security officers, and window cleaners in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. SEIU unites more than 225,000 property services workers nationally, and over 2.1 million including workers in healthcare and the public sector.

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SEIU Minnesota Leaders Praise President’s Administrative Action

Highlight move as important step towards fixing our broken immigration system

ST. PAUL – SEIU leaders in Minnesota praised President Obama’s announcement of his administrative action on immigration tonight as an important step in the right direction for immigrant families and American communities. His action provides millions of families with an historic opportunity to come out of the shadows and into the light of our economy and society without fear. Republican leaders in Congress have repeatedly failed to reform a broken immigration system that is not working for America. Tonight, the President has taken a major step forward in addressing what needs to be fixed and has done what is right for our country.

Time Is Now Immigration Rally in DC“We commend the President for taking bold action after Congress has repeatedly refused to act,” said Jamie Gulley, President of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota. “We know this move will strengthen our state and country because we understand how crucial the immigrant contribution is to our schools, neighborhoods, economy and our everyday lives.”

The President’s action will allow millions of families to live without fear of deportation and to come out of the underground economy and raise their voices without fear of retribution.

“This is so important to our communities because right now too many families in Minnesota and across the country have to worry that they will come home one day to find that their family has been torn apart,” said Javier Morillo, President of SEIU Local 26. “This will allow families to stay together and will really strengthen communities across Minnesota and the United States.”

Unfortunately, conservative Republicans in Congress have threatened to shut down the federal government, sue the President, or block funding to stop administrative action from happening.

“Republican leaders in Congress need to stop playing politics with people’s lives,” said Carol Nieters, Executive Director of SEIU Local 284. “They failed the American people by refusing to vote on meaningful immigration reform. If Republican leaders choose to continue to be the party of inaction and interference, they will be held accountable by voters in 2016.”

SEIU leaders also highlighted the new website iAmerica.org, which will be an information hub about the administrative action. Those who can benefit from this administrative action are encouraged to learn more by visiting iAmerica.org, where they can get trusted, up-to-date information and the tools to apply for relief.

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SEIU is the workers who provide care and support for your family in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, in their homes, and the Twin Cities’ largest public and private buildings.  The SEIU Minnesota State Council coordinates the electoral, legislative and outreach work of the SEIU Locals in Minnesota to increase the effectiveness of their collective bargaining and new member organizing campaigns.  By building the political involvement of the approximately 57,000 workers SEIU represent throughout the state, the State Council is working to improve the lives of all Minnesotans. 

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Home Care Workers Announce Victory in Historic Union Election

Home Care workers win union vote in largest election in state history, seeking better pay and respect for their work and improved care for recipients

St. Paul, MN – Home care workers announced today that workers voted decisively to form their union and join the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare Minnesota. Workers gathered with home care clients and supporters at the Minnesota State Fair Labor Pavilion to announce that the Bureau of Mediation Services tallied the votes earlier in the day and certified the victory, with 60% of voters voting yes (5,872 Votes. Yes: 3542, No: 2306, Void/blank: 23). The election, the largest of its kind in state history, was triggered when workers turned in thousands of cards on July 8th requesting to form their union. Ballots went out on Friday, August 1st, and the historic election ran for 25 days, ending yesterday, Monday, August 25th.

State Fair Press Conference_1_rs

At the press conference announcing the results, home care workers shared their joy over the results, coming after many years of effort. They discussed their commitment to continue fighting, through their newly-formed union, to finally make real improvements to the home care programs on which so many people with disabilities and elderly Minnesotans depend.

“This union has the power to change the lives of thousands of Minnesota families for the better,” said Yankuba Fadera, a home care worker from Maplewood. “Home care work is real and important work. Both workers and the people we serve deserve better, and winning our union and having a collective voice is a huge step toward getting a contract that makes these improvements a reality. Today, after exercising our democratic right to vote for our union, we are showing how true the statement ‘When We Fight, We Win’ can be for workers in Minnesota.”

“Despite every obstacle put in our way, we stuck to our promise to keep fighting until we were able to exercise our democratic right to let home care workers decide for themselves whether to form a union,” said Sumer Spika, a home care worker from St. Paul. “When given the right to decide for ourselves, home care workers clearly are ready for change.  With our union, we will have a unified voice to fight for better conditions for ourselves and better care for those we serve.”

“Despite the importance of our work caring for Minnesotans in every corner of the state, our work still lacks the respect it deserves,” said Rosemary Van Vickle, a home care worker from Crosby. “Workers deserve things like fair pay better training and paid time off. Because we love our work and the people we serve, we have come together to fight for change. After years of struggle just to get a vote, today we are so excited to have won our union! With our collective voice, we will be stronger in our fight for improvements for both workers and the people we serve.”

Advocates with disabilities who receive home care services also spoke today about why this is an important victory for consumers as well as workers.

“When workers voted yes for their union, they were voting Yes for a better life not only for themselves, but also for families like mine,” said Nikki Villavicencio, a home care recipient from Maplewood who attended the press conference with her husband and daughter. “The high turnover in this field, from the low pay and lack of benefits, causes turmoil for families. When we undervalue the workers, we undervalue families like mine. With a voice through a union, we are confident we will finally see the changes needed to make this work invisible no more!”

The workers voted to join SEIU Healthcare Minnesota. Home care workers have been organizing to improve their jobs and Minnesota’s home care programs for years, and won the right to form a union under state law last year.

 

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SEIU Healthcare Minnesota unites more than 15,000 healthcare and long-term care workers in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and home care throughout the state of Minnesota. SEIU represents more than 30,000 members across Minnesota and is a powerful voice working to improve the lives of all Minnesotans.

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