Healthcare

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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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.

 

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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.

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“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.”

 

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

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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.

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“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.

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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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2013 Session Truly Historic, Moves Minnesota Forward to a Brighter Future

Legislators, Governor Dayton make crucial investments in education and health care while expanding rights for workers

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…)

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House Passes Landmark Bill Granting Collective Bargaining Rights to Home Care Workers

Bill heads to Governor for signature

St. Paul, MN – More than 50 hours after first arriving at the Capitol Saturday afternoon, Sumer Spika joined a tired, but elated group of home care workers and recipients in celebration. (more…)

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Senate Vote Upholds Rights of Working Families

Home care workers celebrate following record-setting debate on bill to grant collective bargaining rights

St. Paul, MN – After 11 committees and a record-setting 17-hour debate on the Senate floor, home care workers are celebrating a win after the Senate voted 35 – 32 to pass a bill that would extend collective bargaining rights to workers in self-directed public home care programs. (more…)

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