Healthcare

Mayo Clinic Health System-Albert Lea Hospital Workers Hold Second Informational Picket Outside of Hospital As Contract Negotiations Continue to Stall

Workers and community supporters highlight contract proposals that could harm workers, hospital and the community

Albert Lea, MN – Monday evening, outside of the Mayo Clinic Health System Albert Lea Hospital, dozens of maintenance workers and community supporters held an informational picket to highlight stalled contract negotiations because of proposals made by Mayo that could set back workers, the hospital and the community. The workers, who are members of the SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, highlighted their concerns on the public sidewalk outside of the hospital as they continue their attempts to reach a fair contract agreement. The picket followed an initial informational picket in November of 2015, and saw strong support from hospital workers who are members of other unions, including Minnesota Nurses Association, AFSCME Council 65, Albert Lea Education Association, Southeast Area Labor Center and the Minnesota AFL-CIO.

AlbertLea_Info_Picket_rsWorkers at the picket included Henry Tews, a maintenance engineer who has worked at the hospital for 26 years, who highlighted what changes proposed by the hospital would mean for both workers and the community.

“Like our last picket, we are here today to show that we are willing to fight for what is right for Albert Lea. Having a safe, well-run hospital is important to patients, and having decent jobs in our community is important to everyone in and around Albert Lea. That is why other hospital employees are out here and have been wearing stickers in support of our fight, because we know that our fight is just the first if we don’t stop them from taking us backwards,” said Tews. “We are ready to sit down at the bargaining table and reach an agreement with the hospital so we can continue to provide the service needed to make our hospital great. Unfortunately, Mayo executives won’t budge on their offer.”

The maintenance workers at Mayo Clinic Health System Albert Lea Hospital are the first unit of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota members to bargain this round with Mayo, and they have held over 10 negotiation sessions over the last seven months. Many points of agreement have been reached, but workers continued to expressed frustration over proposed language that takes away the voice of longtime workers.

Another maintenance worker at the picket was Gary Wichmann, who has worked at the Albert Lea Hospital for 10 years. 

“We were excited to see such a great crowd today and be joined by Union brothers and sisters from AFSCME, the Minnesota Nurses Association and others. Today showed that the workers               who make the hospital run are standing together for a stronger Albert Lea and Mayo system. It is huge that we are all out here together to show our unity,” said Wichmann. “We’re ready to get a fair contract settled, and we hope Mayo will come to the negotiating table to get that done. This is too important to back down, and we are prepared to continue this fight as long as is needed for what is right.”

Negotiations began in August of 2015. There are currently no new negotiation sessions planned.

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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.

www.seiuhcmn.org

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Supporting and Strengthening Home Care Work for Clients and Workers

Issue:

Home care workers support Minnesota’s seniors and people with disabilities to live independent lives.  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. President Obama changed the overtime rule 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.

With the severe shortage of home care workers in the state, this has resulted in challenges for those needing care. Minnesota needs to provide funding and policies so that no seniors or people with disabilities have the hours capped of their home care worker who provides them care.

 

How to Fix It:

  • Make certain Minnesota provides funding to get into compliance with new federal overtime rules protections so that workers hours aren’t capped at 40 hour per week any longer, which is currently causing disruptions for those who receive care.

 

Why this matters, from SEIU Healthcare MN member home care worker Marie Bounds:

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. 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.

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Minnesota must raise smoking age to 21 to save lives, protect kids

Saint Paul, Minn — Today, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in Minnesota is calling on Governor Dayton and state legislators to follow California’s lead and pass vital legislation that will protect kids and save thousands of lives by raising the minimum age to buy tobacco.

“California legislators overcame heavy-handed lobbying and threats from the tobacco industry, passing Tobacco 21 legislation because they recognized their duty to protect families in their state.  Don’t the children of Minnesota deserve the same chance to grow up addiction-free?” said Jamie Gulley, President of the SEIU Minnesota State Council. 

Last week, the California State Assembly passed SB 7 X2 by State Senator Ed Hernandez that will raise the age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21. Governor Jerry Brown is expected to sign the legislation when it reaches his desk. California will now join Hawaii as the second state to make this important change.

Ninety-five percent (95%) of adult tobacco users started before they were 21 years old. Of those kids who become regular smokers, 1 in 3 will die from tobacco-related diseases.

Even tobacco industry researchers acknowledge that addiction-prone adolescents are significantly more likely than their older counterparts to become lifelong smokers, the reason Big Tobacco vehemently fought the Tobacco 21 legislation in California.

“Saving lives by keeping tobacco out of teens’ hands is a legacy that Minnesota leaders can embrace by fighting the number one cause of preventable death in our state.”

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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.

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SEIU Statement on Recommendations from Health Care Financing Task Force

Healthcare workers and leaders praise final recommendations as important framework towards a more healthy state

St. Paul, Minn — With the announcement today of final recommendations from the Health Care Financing Task Force passing with 80% support, SEIU leaders praised the framework and released the following statements:

Phillip Cryan, Executive Vice President of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota and a member of the Task Force, praised the recommendations as charting a course towards a more healthy state.  “These recommendations offer a powerful vision for a better Minnesota. If enacted by the legislature, these policies will improve the lives of hundreds of thousands of families all across our state. Expanding our high-quality, affordable MinnesotaCare program to cover more working families who are now struggling to pay high deductibles and premiums for commercial insurance, ensuring health care coverage for the undocumented, and repealing the sunset on the provider tax that funds MinnesotaCare would all help make our state a more just and healthy place to live,” said Cryan. “I am proud of the role SEIU played, working together with health care providers, patient advocates, other unions, doctors, academics, legislators and state officials to shape these recommendations to improve health care for all Minnesotans.”

Health Care Stethoscope_rsRita Matthews, a Phlebotomy Assistant at Allina’s Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids and members of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota’s Executive Board, spoke about what these changes would mean for the people she cares for every day, working on the front lines of the healthcare field. “Too often, we see people put off healthcare, either because they lack health insurance or because the costs of their deductibles and copays are so high they can’t afford to go the doctor. This causes unnecessary harm and pain to them and their families. Every Minnesotan should have access to quality, affordable healthcare coverage, and these recommendations from the Health Care Financing Task Force would, if adopted by the legislature, make that closer to a reality for all Minnesotans,” said Matthews. “I hope our elected officials take these recommendations seriously and work to make our state a more healthy and safe place for every patient – which, at some point in our lives, means every one of us – in Minnesota.”

Javier Morillo, President of SEIU Local 26, highlighted the recommendation that called for extending healthcare coverage to undocumented families in Minnesota. “With national elected officials continuing to put political posturing over fixing our broken immigration system with a real path to citizenship, it is exciting to see Minnesota putting families first by recommending that undocumented residents receive health insurance. The recommendations from the Task Force, if implemented, would make our state more healthy, safe and inclusive,” said Morillo. “We all gain by raising public health standards when all families have health insurance that allows them to receive the care they need. This would be a huge step forward for our state.”

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SEIU Healthcare Minnesota unites more than 35,000 healthcare and long-term care workers in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and home care throughout the state of Minnesota. 

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SEIU Healthcare Minnesota Statement on New DHS Commissioner

Union praises gains made for working families during tenure of former Commissioner Jessen, looks forward to working with Commissioner Johnson Piper

St. Paul, Minn — With the news today that Governor Dayton has appointed Emily Johnson Piper to replace Lucinda Jesson as his next Commissioner of the Department of Human Services, SEIU Healthcare Minnesota released the following statement:

“As the largest healthcare union in the state, we value strong leadership in the Department of Human Services. We want to commend Commissioner Jesson for her outstanding term and all she did to help working people in our state during her tenure. She managed the historic first contract for home care workers, which saw the people who care for our families in our homes raise their pay floor and get paid time off, many for the first time ever. This is an important step to stabilizing this growing industry in Minnesota. Her department implemented the increased funding for nursing home workers from the last legislative session, which has resulted in raising standards in nursing homes across the state, with a specific emphasis on care facilities in Greater Minnesota. In addition, the Department’s work strengthening MNSure and the successful extension of Medical Assistance and MinnesotaCare coverage to many thousands more low-income working people in our state during Commissioner Jesson’s time has reduced the uninsured rates and helped to make Minnesota a stronger and more healthy state.

“We applaud Governor Dayton’s choice of  Emily Johnson Piper as the new Commissioner and look forward to working with Commissioner Johnson Piper and the whole Department to continue pursuing our shared goals of making sure that all Minnesotans can live the healthy and independent lives that they choose.”

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SEIU Healthcare Minnesota unites more than 35,000 healthcare and long-term care workers in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and home care throughout the state of Minnesota. 

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Minnesota Home Care Workers Speak Out for Good Care and Good Jobs After Oral Arguments in Appeals Court Cases Seeking to Take Away Their Union

Workers, clients and community supporters express dismay that just as real changes and improvements in home care are beginning to take effect, anti-union groups want to reverse that progress

St. Paul, MN – On Wednesday morning outside of the Federal Court Building in St. Paul, dozens of home care workers, clients and supporters spoke out for good care and good jobs for both home care workers and
the clients they serve. They gathered after oral arguments in appeals of district court rulings in two lawsuits brought by small groups of extremist millionaires and billionaires. The Chief Judge of the Federal Court in Minneapolis issued decisive rulings earlier this year and last year vindicating home care workers’ right to organize.

20151021_HCW_Federal_CourtThe hearings combined lawsuits from two anti-Union groups, including the Virginia-based National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. After voting overwhelmingly to form their Union in 2014, home care workers negotiated and ratified their historic first contract earlier this year.  Amongst other contractual benefits, home care workers are now beginning to be able to take paid time off if they are sick or want to take a brief vacation, many for the first time ever after many years of work caring for people with disabilities and seniors.

Speaking outside of the courthouse after the hearings, Deb Howze, a home care worker from Minneapolis and a member of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, shared that home care workers are confident that they will win and why they are so outraged that a small group of millionaires and billionaires are funding work to destroy the home care workers’ union.

“This work is predominantly work done by women and people of color, and so I see this court case as a direct attack on women and people of color. We voted democratically to form our union so we can get the benefits that we deserve, such as a pay raise, sick time and access to training. These things help us better care for our clients,” Howze said. “Our home care system has been broken for years. Many PCAs have worked around the clock without a break, overtime or even being paid at all for what we do. Why would the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation want to undo the work we’ve done to improve conditions for clients and PCAs? Why would they want to take our rights away? Why are they threatened by us standing up for ourselves?”

Howze continued: “We are confident the judge will rule in our favor against these baseless attacks, but no matter what they try to do in court to stop us from standing up for ourselves, we are going to continue to fight to make sure home care workers and our clients have a voice to improve care for the tens of thousands of people with disabilities and seniors we serve all across our state.”

Francis Hall, a home care worker from Crosby and member of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota,last week became the first known home care worker in Minnesota to utilize the paid time off provision workers won in their contract. It was the first paid time off she has had as a home care worker in over 15 years doing the job.

“In my 15 years as a home care worker, my day of paid time off last week was my first day of paid time off as a home care worker. 15 years! A few years back I broke my back and only took three unpaid days off.  I needed to pay my bills, so I bought baggy clothes to cover my back brace and painfully went back to work without telling my employer what had happened,” Hall told the crowd of supporters outside of the courthouse. “Despite the important work we do caring for seniors and people with disabilities, too many home care workers did not have basic protections like paid time off before this contract. That is why we came together to form our union. It is wrong that extremists are trying to take away our union. It is wrong for workers in every corner of our state. It is wrong for the people we care for. We are going to stick together and keep fighting because we’ve come too far and the home care industry is too important to not stand up and fight back.”

Home care consumers like Nikki Villavicencio of Maplewood joined workers at the Federal Courthouse in support of a strong home care union. Villiavicencio touched on the how important a strong home care industry is to families like hers who receive home care services.

“My home care workers assist me with almost every aspect of my life, from the time I put my three year old on the bus, to meetings, dinner, bed and many things in between. Without home care my life would look very different. Right now I go to meetings every day and have things like enough clean clothes for my daughter. Without home care workers, I wouldn’t be able to leave my house for days, I would struggle to make meals for my family, not to mention not contributing to the many community activities that I am involved in. My life would go from very active and complex to isolated and exhausting. That is why as a recipient of home care and a disability advocate I have been, and continue to be, a strong supporter of the home care workers’ union and am confident we will win this case.”

Cortney Phillips, a home care worker from the St. Cloud area and member of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, spoke about why she made the trip to St. Paul to speak out for a strong home care workers’ union.

“We’ve made initial gains with paid time off, raising the wage floor, and funding for training, and those are great starting points. However, we still have a very long way to go to give home care the value it truly deserves,” said Phillips, a mother of three. “After getting involved with the union and breaking down those barriers of isolation and hearing from other workers like myself, I realized that so many of us are facing the same struggles and issues working in the home care industry. There are thousands of us from every corner of our state, from the Twin Cities to Greater Minnesota where I am from, who want to voluntarily join this union to improve our industry. We won’t stop fighting, because this work is too important.”

After the hearing, while the speakers told their stories, workers and clients held signs saying things like “Don’t Take Away my PTO” and “We Love Home Care Workers,” vowing to continue their fight for good care and good jobs no matter what attacks they face.

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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 60,000 members across Minnesota and is a powerful voice working to improve the lives of all Minnesotans.

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As White House Conference on Aging Begins, Minnesota Home Care Workers Traveling to Washington D.C to Voice Concerns on ‘Care Crisis’

Workers to Join National Discussion on Improving Long Term Care as New Report Highlights Growing Challenges

St. Paul – Just weeks after their historic first contract went into effect, two Minnesota home care workers will travel to Washington D.C. as part of a select group to discuss the best ways to improve long term care for the aging population across America with members of Congress, including Rep. Keith Ellison. Home care workers will be a part of the conversation around the White House Conference on Aging, speaking at the conference and engaging remotely in Washington and in select cities across the country. Studies show that low pay among home care workers, which averages $17,000 each year, leads to alarmingly high turnover, jeopardizes critical services and strains the home care system as more and more Americans rely on and choose home care instead of expensive long term care facilities. (more…)

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Minnesota Home Care Workers Celebrate First Day of Historic Union Contract

Contract wins include paid time off, higher wage floor, workplace protections, training fund and more for 27,000 workers represented

St. Paul, MN – After years of advocacy by home care workers and the people they support, today marks the first day of the historic home care union contract. After voting last year to form their union and join Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare Minnesota, home care workers reached an agreement with the state in January on this first contract for the 27,000 workers in the new bargaining unit. The agreement was ratified by union members and by the Minnesota Legislature as part of the Health and Human Services (HHS) omnibus budget bill.  (more…)

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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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