Issues

Changes to Nursing Home Reimbursement In Gov. Walz’s Budget Raise Questions For Nursing Home Workers

SAINT PAUL—In response to the budget released today by Governor Walz and Lt. Governor Flanagan that proposes cuts for some Minnesota nursing homes, St. Charles nursing home worker and SEIU Healthcare Minnesota member Jeanne Schulz released the following statement.

 

MN Capitol Dome“Minnesotans are caring and compassionate. We believe that our family, friends and neighbors living in nursing homes like the one where I work — no matter their race, income or zip code — should be able to have what they need to live full and happy lives. Seeing a proposed cut for nursing homes in the budget, without clarity on who that cut will effect, is worrisome to those of us who do this critical work every day.

 

“We understand that the proposal says cuts would be focused on reining in ballooning costs for out-of-state management and executives, and we share a strong concern about the wave of acquisitions of Minnesota nursing homes by out-of-state companies in recent months and the impact those changes have had on nursing residents and workers. But we know that the line-item being targeted for cuts, called “other operating costs,” includes many hard-working frontline staff, not just management and administration. Members like me whose main job is to cook the food, clean the building, take out the trash, or work in the laundry are considered “other operating costs” simply because we are not doing the direct resident care a nursing assistant or nurse performs. And many of us are already making $3-$5/hour less than our nursing-assistant coworkers because the reimbursement reform passed by state lawmakers in 2015 focused only on the workers involved in direct care.  

 

“We made important progress in 2015 by increasing nursing home funding all across Minnesota, but we still have a ways to go to make sure every nursing home is a world-class facility for residents and staff. A good reimbursement system needs to invest in workers, not out-of-state administrators. As this proposal moves forward we hope to get some important questions answered, to make sure the state is cutting out real waste and unnecessary expenses, not taking from the front-line employees who keep our buildings clean and our seniors fed. The lives of thousands of Minnesotans across our state depend on it.”

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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.

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Minnesotans Praise Gov. Walz’s Budget that Protects and Expands Affordable Health Care

St. Paul—Today, Governor Walz and Lt. Governor Flanagan released their two year budget proposal which repeals the sunset of the 27 year old health care provider tax—protecting health care for one million Minnesotans—and lays the groundwork to expand affordable health care throughout the state with ONECare.

Thank_You_Walz_FlanaganTakeAction Minnesota, SEIU, Land Stewardship Project, and ISAIAH released the following statement:

“As Minnesotans, we care about each other. When one person can’t afford or access the health care they need, it hurts all of us. We’re strongest when no one is left behind, and when our health care centers people.

This last election saw thousands of conversations about healthcare and what we need to make sure our state moves forward. Our elected officials are responsible for making health care work for everyone, no exception. It’s clear that Governor Walz has heard the frustration and heartbreak over health care in every corner of the state and is taking action with his first budget to address these challenges. His budget protects health care for one million Minnesotans and lays the groundwork to expand affordable health care, all without giving handouts to insurance companies. Minnesotans want bold action on health care and Gov. Walz is leading the way.”

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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.

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Red Wing Care Center Nursing Home Operator Leaves Town, Refuses to Pay Wages & Benefits for Hundreds of Employees

Red Wing, Minn — Employees of the Red Wing Care Center Nursing Home found out late last week, after working a full pay period, that their employer Welcov Healthcare had filed for bankruptcy and refused to pay for work they had done. The payroll owed by Welcov was for over $200,000, and that doesn’t even take into account vacation and sick time that these workers may lose.

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Jamie Gulley, the President of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, the Union that represents many of the employees, shared the frustration felt by the workers, the residents and all Minnesotans impacted by the greed from companies like Welcov as our state continues to face a care crisis caused by lack of funding and support for nursing homes.

“It is frustrating that another employer is treating the people who care for our families this way. This is the latest case of Minnesota’s growing wage theft crisis and also a clear example of why we have a care crisis, where families struggle to find the care they want and deserve,” said Gulley. “Would you do this critical, important, incredibly hard work if you may not be paid for your hours or if you could lose your accrued sick and vacation benefits? It’s time that our state takes this issue seriously, both addressing the actions of bad actors and proactively making sure these shady business practices are stopped once and for all.”

In recent months Welcov Healthcare had signed an agreement to transition operations of the nursing home to a new operator effective last week, and as part of the transition agreement they were responsible for the payroll through last week and were to transition all accrued benefits (sick leave and vacation time) to the new operator upon transition. Unfortunately, this did not happen. Just before the end of the pay period, Welcov told the new operator they were declaring bankruptcy and did not pay the wages it owed. Now, employees and the residents they care for are being punished for Welcov’s greed. Just last month the Star Tribune reported that “Welcov’s owners plan to start a new business that will focus on a handful of healthcare facilities in Wyoming.”

This is just the latest example of Nursing Home operators bailing on employees and Minnesota communities. In 2015 Deseret Health Group in Owatonna went bankrupt, forcing the state to put them in receivership and put Volunteers of America in charge until they could place all the residents in other nursing homes, eventually resulting in the nursing home closing. It was later discovered the employer was deducting insurance premiums from workers checks and not submitting to the insurance company. Extendicare (Robbinsdale and Texas Terrace facilities) went bankrupt and the courts put another management company in charge, with one (Fortis) going bankrupt as well. Workers at two facilities lost their sick pay.

The workers and their Union, SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, have notified the AG’s office and are preparing to take any and all legal action possible to ensure Welcov pays workers what they are owed.

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

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SEIU MN State Council 2019 Legislative Priorities and Agenda

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Sign up for SEIU’s Members Day at the Capitol

Priorities
  • Paid Family & Medical Leave
  • Preventing Wage Theft
  • Restore the Vote
  • Earned Sick and Safe Time
  • Protecting State Revenue
    • Conform to Federal Deemed Repatriation and Global Intangible Low-Taxed Income (GILTI) Tax Provisions
    • Repeal 2017 Tax Giveaways to Tobacco and Large Commercial Properties and Estates
    • Oppose Permanent Tax Cuts and Any Tax Cuts for the Wealthy and Corporations
    • Oppose Dedicating Existing General Fund Revenue to Road Construction
Agenda
  • Home care workers’ contract ratification and funding for $15 home care worker minimum wage and statewide training/orientation
  • Unemployment Insurance for School Support Staff
  • Drivers Licenses (and vehicle ownership) for All
  • Progressive Health Care Proposal
    • MinnesotaCare Buy-in
    • Premium Support (Reinsurance)
    • Provider Tax Sunset Repeal
  • Minnesota Miracle 2.0
    • Per Pupil Funding Formula Increase
    • Full-Service Community Schools Funding Expansion
    • Universal Public Pre-K
    • Free Public College
  • $15 Minimum Wage for All Nursing Home Workers (direct care and non-direct care)
  • Special Education Full State Funding
  • Nursing Home Transfer Public Input
  • Prescription Drug Price Transparency, Price Gouging Penalties and Profits Tax
  • Student Loan Debt Tax Deduction change to Refundable Tax Credit
  • Insulin Emergency Access
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Minnesota Home Care Workers Bring Minimum Wage Proposal of at Least $15 to Negotiations with State of Minnesota

Proposal comes as seniors and people with disabilities in Minnesota face an ongoing care crisis that has grown to 8,000 unfilled job openings caused by low wages

SAINT PAUL – On Wednesday afternoon, at their most recent bargaining session with the state of Minnesota, the bargaining team for the home care workers with SEIU Healthcare Minnesota presented a proposal to bring all home care workers in the bargaining unit to at least $15 per hour during the next two-year contract they are currently negotiating. The home care bargaining team includes workers, clients and family members of seniors and people with disabilities who receive care services. (more…)

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105 Stillwater Medical Group Healthcare Workers Vote to Join SEIU Healthcare Minnesota

Victory Comes Just One Month After Supreme Court Case Attacking Workers, Shows Workers Won’t Stop Fighting for Better Lives for Our Families

Stillwater, Minn — Following an election Wednesday that saw 70% of the workers voting choosing to join the union, 105 healthcare workers with the Stillwater Medical Group became members of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota. The group at the main campus in Stillwater includes CMAs (Certified Medical Assistant) (CMA), LPNs (Licensed Practical Nurse) and RMAs (Registered Medical Assistants). This victory came just weeks after the Janus ruling by the Supreme Court tried to make it harder for workers and their unions to build power in the public sector.union signs SMG pic

“I have seen what unions can do. With our Union we now will have more rights and more protections to improve our lives and the lives of our patients,” said Leah Buehler, a CMA at the clinic.

The group was part of the union until 2010 when their union was broken by a boss-driven decertification campaign. Within the last year the group came together to win a new union to help win a voice on the job, better working conditions and better care for their patients. They joined SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, one of the largest and fastest growing unions in the state.

“We don’t want management to make all the decisions and changes with no input from us anymore, or to have meetings after they have already decided something and we don’t get a say,” said LPN Satin Washington. “Half the time we don’t even get to go to those meetings because we are so busy we never get to take a break. I’m looking forward to us having a unified voice.”

Despite promises from the boss that they wouldn’t go backwards if they left their union in 2010, many in the group went from some of the highest paid in their field to having their pay and benefits fall behind other clinics.

“Every year we have been getting less and less.  When we had no union, management had all the power, and we had no voice,” said CMA Angela Peulen. “Now we have a legally binding voice as union members to win positive changes for ourselves and our patients!”

Despite getting pushback as they organized their union, the group remained united and won their decisive victory Wednesday that will set them up to make real changes in their clinic.

“Forming our union shows that we support each other,” said CMA Laura Boyle. “We were all separate before, but now we are together. We are united in our goal of winning positive change for ourselves and the patients we care for every day.”

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SEIU Healthcare Minnesota represents over 35,000 healthcare and long term care workers in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and home care across Minnesota.

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Home Care Workers and Clients Disappointed at Lack of Action on Home Care Crisis During Legislative Session, Vow to Mobilize “Care Voters” in November

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.”

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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.

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SEIU Albert Lea Members Reach Agreement with Mayo

New contract ratified Monday following agreement reached after 2nd strike had been authorized

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.

rs_Albert_Lea_Mayo_HCMN_strikeAfter 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.

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SEIU Healthcare Minnesota represents over 35,000 healthcare and long term care workers in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and home care across Minnesota.

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Minnesota Custodian Wins National Recognizing Inspirational School Employees (RISE) Award, Honored at Ceremony in Washington D.C.

Award winner joined school staff from across the nation for ceremony on May 9th at Rayburn House Office Building

Burnsville, Minnesota  – Mark Glende, Head Custodian at Sioux Trail Elementary School, 22-year employee of ISD 191 Burnsville-Eagan- Savage School District and member of SEIU Local 284 was honored in Washington D.C. Wednesday as one of the 2018 Recognizing Inspiring School Employees (RISE) Award winners. The award is being given to five individuals from across the country who are doing extraordinary and inspirational things in their schools and communities to promote quality education, foster positive learning environments, and ensure student success.

Mark_Glende_191_rsMark was recognized for his proven track record of going above and beyond to make the school a safe, welcoming and enriching place for all the students. He has painted a world map on the playground, painted numbers and fractions on steps to help younger students learn math and even painted inspirational words on the gym walls in his effort to turn “dead space” into “learning spaces.” Mark even volunteered to shave his head for a student body fundraiser for Pennies for Patients.

“I’m very proud to win this award. I truly believe if we each leave things a little better than we find them, we can accomplish amazing things,” said Glende. “I am proud to be able to work every day to make that a reality for students in my community.”

Mark has worked hard to make the school a more energy efficient building, establishing the S.E.E. SQUAD, Schools for Energy Efficiency. For this project, he worked with student groups on things like turning off classroom lights when unoccupied and making sure blinds were down at the end of the day to keep the heat from escaping overnight. They found out that by turning off gym lights for just two hours a day the school could save an additional $500 per month.

Because of the work of Mark and others, Sioux Trail Elementary School became one of the first Minnesota schools to become an ENERGY STAR Leader Top Performer and in 2007 ranked as the second most energy efficient school in the Midwest.

“Mark is a classic example of school employees across Minnesota who go above and beyond every single day to make our schools safer and more enriching for our students,” said Keith Niemi, President of SEIU Local 284. “We are incredibly proud of Mark and the positive impact he is making on students, his school and the community. His whole SEIU Local 284 family are incredibly proud of this outstanding achievement.”

Another project Mark helped grow was the Enhanced Recycling and Organics Program (EROP). The focus was on recycling in the classrooms and recycling and organic separation in the cafeteria for breakfast and lunch. He taught a group of students the proper way to sort their lunch trays, and those students went on to teach their fellow students. That group of students gave up their recess time once a week to go classroom-to-classroom and talk trash, compost or recycle, and worked with Mark as Trash Talkers. Out of this Mark started the SMART (Sort More And Reduce Trash) program. Over the next couple years the school was able to reduce trash output from a four-yard dumpster picked up daily to a one-yard dumpster picked up once a week.

Mark’s work saw him appointed to his city’s newly formed Environmental & Sustainability Task Force in 2015. Mark was elected chairman by the task force members in the first year, and over the next 3 years the taskforce has been responsible for a 52% decrease in energy consumption in the city’s 5 municipal buildings.

In 2016, Mark got tired of seeing all the milk being thrown away that students didn’t drink at breakfast and lunch, so he came up with the One More Sip challenge. It took six weeks to establish a baseline of milk being poured down the drain, and then he started asking students to take one more sip before they went out to recess. From October to May the school increased milk consumption from 60% to over 90%.

Mark had the student council help him and he dubbed them his Moo Crew. They made posters to hang not only in the cafeteria but all over school. Now students celebrate two-sip Tuesday and Finish Your Milk Friday. They also came up with weekly toasts that always ended with “and here’s to the cows!”

The RISE award is given yearly by the National Coalition of Classified Education Support Employee Unions (NCCESEU), a coalition of state and national unions that together represent a million school support employees. The award highlights the individual contributions of school staff and recognizes the essential role that all education professionals play in shaping our public schools.

There are more than 2.8 million classified education support employees in our nation’s public schools, colleges, and universities and they make up one-third of the public education workforce.  They ensure students achieve at their highest levels. They keep students fed, emotionally and physically healthy and safe, engaged and connected to the larger school community, and provide instruction and support that leads to academic success.

Classified education support employees work in the following nine career families:

  • Child nutrition services
  • Clerical services
  • Custodial and maintenance services
  • Health and student services
  • Paraeducators
  • Security services
  • Skilled trades
  • Technical services
  • Transportation services

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The National Coalition of Classified Education Support Employee Unions (NCCESEU) is a coalition of state and national unions that together represent a million school support employees, including clerical and administrative staff, custodians, food service workers, health and student services workers, paraeducators, technology services employees, transportation workers, and security and skilled trades staff.

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Mayo’s Christmas Lockout of Albert Lea Workers Deemed Illegal by Region 18 of the National Labor Relations Board

Albert Lea, Minn – Region 18 of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) has found merit to the Union’s charge that Mayo illegally locked out employees over Christmas. (ruling attached) The union based its charge about the Mayo Albert Lea Christmas Lockout on the fact that, despite saying they were locking out over 80 workers because they needed to ‘honor contracts’ for replacement workers, Mayo in fact hired only a handful of workers – most of whom quit before the week was over. This left large chunks of essential work undone while Mayo locked out dedicated employees with decades of experience following the group’s 1-day strike, the first in the history of Mayo. The Christmas Lockout was the first time that healthcare workers had been locked out at Mayo and in Minnesota’s history. (more…)

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