SEIU MN State Council
Media Relations Coordinator
SAINT PAUL, Minn – Frontline workers who sacrificed during the COVID-19 pandemic spoke out Wednesday on the need for speedy, fair compensation from a $250 million fund created by the Legislature and administered by a new, nine-member working group.
“The table is set, it’s time to dig in,” said Mary C. Turner, president of the Minnesota Nurses Association. “Lawmakers have been promising to care for essential, frontline workers. It’s time to make sure these funds go to back pay and fulfill the needs of those workers who had to sacrifice pay and benefits during the pandemic.”
The coalition of groups, including SEIU, MNA, Education Minnesota, We Make MN, AFSCME Council 65, Unidos MN, CTUL, the Awood Center, the AFL-CIO and others, pushed legislators to make sure this money is used in a way that begins the process of supporting the workers who gave so much this last year. The groups will continue to advocate the working group on multiple points regarding this money:
The working group must ensure that this money is easily accessible by the frontline, essential workers who have earned it through their sacrifices for us during this pandemic.
The working group must ensure what workers get is proportional to their sacrifice to help make these essential workers whole.
The working group must ensure that workers have a seat at the table in the decision-making process and that money gets into the hands of workers as soon as possible.
Odemaris Mercado, a janitor for ABM who cleans the Cargill building and is an Executive Board member of her union, SEIU Local 26, shared the urgency of this work:
“This $250 million is a great start, but essential workers like me need action. When I had COVID I thought I was going to die. While I missed work I got no pay from my employer. I used all my vacation and sick time – and my union gave me $300 – but I still am struggling to pay my rent and bills. I had to ask family and friends for food and money to support my family. I hope the working group listens to workers, works fast and gets money into the hands of essential workers as soon as possible.”
Workers have been fighting for essential worker pay since the special legislative sessions in the fall of 2020. After the Minnesota House of Representatives passed the Essential Workers Emergency Leave Act, authored by Rep. Cedrick Fraizer, the Senate GOP blocked the same bill authored by Sen. Erin Murphy.
MAPE Vice President Angela Halseth shared how this is an important first step:
“We are glad to see this taskforce get started, but it is just that – a start. I and my colleagues spent the last year dealing with outbreak after outbreak in the correctional facilities. We did everything we could to stop the spread but still we got sick, our families got sick, and our clients got sick,” said Halseth. “We are like hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans who endured over the last year while on the front lines. We look forward to collaborating with the taskforce to bring these stories to the forefront and find ways to make people whole again.”
The Essential Workers Emergency Leave Act would have required employers to give their workers quarantine pay or time off to recover from vaccination; many businesses qualify for a dollar-for-dollar, up-front federal tax credit to cover the cost of such payment. Worker advocates say the refusal by the Senate GOP, under pressure from by the Chamber of Commerce and hospital executives, to ask employers to do right by their workers left millions of federal dollars on the table that could have benefitted essential workers.
St. Paul, Minn – Governor Dayton released his supplemental budget today, which included funding to bring the state into compliance with new federal overtime rules in regards to home care workers. Currently, many seniors and people with disabilities who receive home care services are facing issues getting the care they need because home care workers are having their hours capped at 40 hours per week. With a severe shortage of home care workers in the state, this has resulted in challenges for those needing care. The overtime rule was changed by President Obama in 2015 to fix the injustice of care workers, predominantly women and people of color, having been deliberately excluded from the basic legal protections around minimum wage and overtime created in the 1930s.
Home care clients and workers have worked together to make certain the
state fixes this issue so that all home care clients have the care that they need. In response to Gov. Dayton allocating money to address this problem in his supplemental budget, home care worker Marie Bounds from Brooklyn Park released the following statement:
“We are very glad to see that Governor Dayton has recognized that this issue is important to thousands of families with seniors and people with disabilities across Minnesota, by adding funding for overtime pay in his supplemental budget,” said Bounds. “Recently I was told I can’t work more than 40 hours per week between my two clients, so I had to choose which client I was going to help, and which client I would have to cut back on care for. They both have extensive care needs and I’ve been their PCA for nearly 4 years. One client really needed the extra 7 hours, but I had to cut back being his PCA. It is a challenge for him to find someone who is reliable for just those few hours, because of the shortage of home care workers. Fixing this issue will help families all over Minnesota and is a step towards making our state a better place for all of us. We look forward to fighting to get this funding for the overtime pay we need and to which we’re now entitled under federal law, along with protections so that workers like me can’t have our hours capped at 40 hours per week anymore, so that no senior or person with disabilities struggles to get the care they deserve.”
SEIU Healthcare Minnesota represents over 35,000 healthcare and long term care workers in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and home care across Minnesota.
St. Paul, MN – As lawmakers head back to the Capitol for the first day of the 2016 session, members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in Minnesota are ready to fight for legislation that prioritizes working families and uses the surplus created by a strong economy and sound polices to invest in closing our state’s inequalities.
SEIU Members believe that the state’s $900 million surplus provides a golden opportunity for elected officials to make real investments in our educational system.
“After years of underinvestment, we’ve seen some movement in the previous years in education funding, but we still have a long way to go to get to proper funding from cradle to career,” said Anna Angeles- Farris, a parent, Custodian in the Lakeville schools and member of SEIU Local 284. “I have seen firsthand the need for real education funding through various areas of my life, from my children and grandchildren seeing the need for Pre-K, to my work in K-12 schools making clear to me the need for real investment so all students can succeed, to my family’s reality of the skyrocketing price of college. I know that we need to invest in education from top to bottom to ensure that all Minnesotans have a real shot at success, and will be fighting at the Capitol this session to make sure our surplus is spent on investing in education, not tax cuts.”
Seniors and people with disabilities who receive home care services in Minnesota are currently facing challenges as new Federal overtime laws are causing the hours of their home care workers to be capped. This is happening because the State of Minnesota hasn’t allocated proper funding to cover for the new law. This is harming the care clients are able to receive, which is why home care workers like Jill Rogers from Two Harbors are speaking out to fix this crucial problem this session.
“Clients don’t stop needing care at 40 hours. I don’t stop providing the care my son needs when my paid time runs out. It doesn’t work that way,” said Rogers, a member of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota. “If this goes on for too long home care workers are going to quit and clients are going to go into institutions. But we can solve this problem. There is a budget surplus at the Capitol and our elected officials should ensure clients across the state get the care they deserve.”
SEIU Members are also strong advocates for the polices in the Working Parents Act, including Earned Sick and Safe Time, Paid Family Leave, Retirement Security, Putting a Stop to Wage Theft and Fair Scheduling which would help working families in our state and are important tools to help begin to roll back our state’s racial and economic disparities. Members are also excited to advocate for the recommendations approved by the Governor’s Health Care Finance Task Force, including expanding MinnesotaCare, extending the provider tax and ensuring undocumented families have the ability to receive affordable health care coverage.
SEIU members will be at the Capitol this session advocating for policies that support working families, and will host their Lobby Day on April 12th.
SEIU is the workers who provide care and support for your family in your homes, hospitals, public schools, nursing homes, hotels, universities and the Twin Cities’ largest public and private buildings, and who make and distribute products used by Minnesotans every day. 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 53,000 people SEIU represents throughout the state, the State Council is working to improve the lives of all Minnesotans. The State Council’s board is comprised of elected leaders, members, and staff of the four SEIU Local Unions in Minnesota and Workers United.
St Paul, MN — Minnesota school support staff are calling on members of the House Tax Committee to vote against the tax omnibus bill released today, and instead invest in Minnesota’s students by increasing the targets for E-12 Education.
SEIU Local 284 members from across Minnesota issued the following statements on Monday: (more…)
St. Paul, MN – Leaders of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in Minnesota applauded Governor Dayton following his 2015 State of the State speech tonight: (more…)
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.
SEIU 284 represents 8700 bus drivers, paraprofessionals, food service workers, early learning employees, clerical staff and custodians throughout the state of Minnesota.
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.
When 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.
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.
St. Paul, MN – As the dust settles on the 2013 legislative session, members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) say it will go down in history as one of the most successful legislative sessions, providing a balanced approach to making key investments in our middle class, while expanding the rights of collective bargaining for workers. (more…)
St. Paul, MN – After weeks of public debate over the best budget to move Minnesota forward, members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) are standing behind the Governor in his plan to restore fairness to our state by asking big corporations to give up tax loopholes and the richest two percent to pay their fair share. (more…)