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.


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.


 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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Care Providers Highlight Passage of 5% Rate Increase

Increase comes as part of the supplemental budget

St. Paul, Minn – On the last day of session, the Minnesota Legislature passed a 5% rate increase for the home-based long-term care industry, with 80% going to workers, beginning later this year. While inflation rose 24.5% between 2003 and 2012, provider rates that pay for caregiver wages increased only 3.4% during that same period. After years of low funding levels that could not keep up with rising costs in the field, workers praised the move as a great first step towards properly funding these essential services. (more…)

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MNsure Success Story

Chaleena Hogfoss, a single mom from St. Paul, says the Affordable Care Act has saved her from thousands of dollars in medical debt.

Up until August 2013, Chaleena was able to stay on her mom’s insurance, thanks to the Affordable Care Act, allowing children to stay on their parents’ insurance until they turn 26. Over the past three years on her mom’s insurance, Chaleena had three major medical emergencies – one was for her gall bladder and the other two were for reproductive issues. Each time, she was really ill, nearly dying at one point.
Chaleena says without the ACA extension to age 26, she would’ve been uninsured and would now be in medical debt for life.

Chaleena’s mom, Kelly Gibbons, has insurance through her employer, SEIU Local 284, where she works as a contract organizer.

Chaleena has currently been uninsured since August when she turned 26, which she says is a scary place to be in since she’s had so many health issues over the past few years. While she has worked at Taco Bell and other fast food restaurants, she currently is unemployed and looking for work. Recently she had another health incident which put her in the hospital. While there, an advisor at the hospital helped her complete the process to sign up for MNsure for both herself and her daughter. She qualifies for MNsure free of charge, since she is currently unemployed. Chaleena says she’s currently waiting back to hear the final word that her insurance is processed.

Chaleena and her daughter live with Chaleena’s mom, Kelly. She says even when she’s working fulltime, as a low-wage worker, she can’t afford to pay rent and the rest of her bills. Chaleena is thankful she can sign up herself and her daughter for insurance through MNsure, because she doesn’t know how she would be able to afford health insurance otherwise. With her medical history, she knows how important having insurance is for her family.



SEIU is the workers who provide care and support for your family in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, 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 approximately 30,000 SEIU members 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.

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Healthcare Workers Praise MNSure Rates, Say Will Lead to Higher Quality Health Care for More Minnesotans

MNSure rates some of the lowest in the nation

Saint Paul, Minn. – As the new health insurance exchange MNSure releases its rates today, members of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare Minnesota are ecstatic to see that MNSure will have some of the lowest rates in the country. The cost for plans sold on the exchange are coming in much lower than originally projected, which mirrors national trends as reported in several studies, most recently the Kaiser Family Foundation, which show exchange premiums throughout the country coming in lower than forecasted.


“This means individuals will be able to purchase more healthcare coverage and keep more money in their pockets,” said Jamie Gulley, President of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota. “SEIU worked closely with Governor Dayton and the DFL legislative majorities to enact a consumer-friendly exchange that brings better healthcare coverage to 1.3 million Minnesotans. Today’s numbers showing that Minnesota will have the lowest average rates in the country show we delivered on the promise of more affordable, quality healthcare coverage for more Minnesotans.”

The MNSure exchange will allow Minnesotans to easily compare health plans side-by-side and empower them to select the plan that best fits their needs and budget. An estimated 300,000 previously uninsured Minnesotans are expected to use MNSure to access affordable, quality insurance. The exchange is a central component of the Affordable Care Act.

“These people are those who previously would run the risk of being turned away at hospitals and clinics,” said Yankuba Fadera, an Emergency Department Tech at St. John’s Hospital in Maplewood and member of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota. “Working in an emergency room, I see what happens when Minnesotans are forced to rely on emergency care, rather than being able to visit a doctor for preventative care or regular check-ups. That results in a lower quality of care and more cost to taxpayers. These rates will provide thousands of Minnesotans with the peace of mind knowing that every plan offered through MNSure will cover a comprehensive set of benefits like emergency room visits, prescriptions, mental health, and preventive care like cancer screenings and immunizations – and all at affordable rates.”

“For four years, the GOP has done nothing on healthcare reform except predict catastrophe from the Affordable Care Act,” continued Gulley. “These premiums, which are much, much lower than predicted, mean the sky is not falling. Instead, the Affordable Care Act is working, and voters will know that in 2014. I’m proud of the active role our members at SEIU played in this process and look forward to the continued work they will do to care for Minnesotans at hospitals, clinics and nursing homes.”



 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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Healthcare Workers Picket Over Demands to Slash Insurance

Nearly 100 healthcare workers from across the metro walked the picket line August 15 at the Aspen Medical Group Maplewood Clinic as part of an informational picket against contract demands being made by Allina Health. SEIU Healthcare Minnesota members who work at nine Aspen Clinics have been in contract negotiations with their corporate parent, Allina Health, for months. Two weeks ago, Allina proposed to eliminate every union benefit they have fought for and won over the last decade.


“This is the fight of our lives,” said Amy Root, a member of the bargaining committee. “As healthcare workers, we care deeply about the health and quality of life for those we care for. But if we aren’t ensured basic protections ourselves, how will we attract and retain the best workers out there? We are the frontline workers in these clinics – we need to be treated fairly so we can make certain that our patients are getting the very best care possible.”

The major sticking point for workers is Allina’s demand to base health insurance benefits on biometric screening results like BMI, many of which discriminate based on genetic factors outside a person’s control. Just a year ago, workers voted on whether they wanted to participate in the program and rejected it with 99 percent of the vote.


Allina has also demanded the right to eliminate life insurance and long-term disability insurance, eliminate overtime based on the 8-hour workday, and eliminate all shift differentials: a complete gutting of earned benefits and the right to collectively bargain over them.

Aspen Clinics are owned by Allina Health and are in the process of being re-branded as Allina Health Clinics along with Allina Medical Clinics and Quello clinics, both of which are non-union. Workers say the proposed contract is an effort by Allina Health to rid workers of their right to collectively bargain over changes to benefits and working conditions.

“Under the guise of ‘standardization’ Allina Health is attempting to gut almost every benefit in the Aspen contract and to lower their standards to those of non-contract employees. But together, healthcare members will stand up for a fair contract so we can continue providing the best quality of care possible for our friends, family and community members,” continued Root.

The contract covers around 350 members, who work in the nine clinics as LPNs, radiology technologists, medical assistants, lab technicians, phlebotomists and patient registration receptions. They will return to the bargaining table Monday.

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Governor Dayton Signs Bill, Historic Expansion of Collective Bargaining Rights for Minnesota Workers

St. Paul, MN – On Friday, Governor Mark Dayton signed a bill which grants a historic expansion of collective bargaining rights for Minnesota workers. (more…)

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