Healthcare

Sen. Tina Smith Joins Minnesotans for Conversation on Need for Home Care Jobs

Polling shows home care investment is overwhelmingly popular, essential to just economic recovery

OAKDALE, MINN — On Wednesday morning, Minnesota essential home care workers, clients and allies hosted a backyard conversation with Sen. Tina Smith to share their experiences and call on elected leaders to support the transformational investment in home- and community-based services in Pres. Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan. All stressed the urgent need for Congressional representatives to take action to demand the $400 billion investment in home care jobs remain central to the economic recovery package.

193008470_10158937630311928_8460331156877320500_nSenator Tina Smith listened to the stories of home care workers and clients including Jacquelyn Kelly, who hosted the event at her Oakdale home.

“As the parent of a teen who is quickly coming of age, I, like most parents, am thinking about my child’s future and transition into independence,” said Jacquelyn Kelly, who is a personal care assistant for her 16-year-old son and member of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota. “I worry that if I can’t offer a living wage, benefits and a viable long-term career path, caregivers will choose to move into other employment situations that provide more stability and less risk.”

Lauren Thompson, a client-leader with the union who lives with Cerebral Palsy expressed her frustration with the current system, which makes it hard for many people to live independently.

“Broken care systems deprive me of freedom and have made me a lesser person. That’s what years of under-investment and giving PCAs low wages has led to. That’s why the Biden care plan is so important. This is about building systems that value my freedom and humanity and give me control of my life.”

In response to these stories, Senator Tina Smith committed to continuing her work in Congress to increase the quality of life for home care workers and the people they serve.

 “Everyone deserves the opportunity to live happy, fulfilled lives in their own homes, including older adults and people living with disabilities,” said Senator Smith. “For far too long we have underinvested in home-based health care. While the American Rescue Plan provided a much-needed payment boost for these services, we need to continue investing in home and community-based services so people doing this work can earn a livable wage. President Biden’s American Jobs Plan will do just that.”

The event was the first of town halls planned in 23 states bringing together care workers and elected officials to galvanize support for a historic investment in the country’s care systems. 

The American Jobs Plan would create more than one million jobs in home care and transform them into living-wage jobs with the opportunity to join a union. The home care workforce is 87% women, 62% people of color and one-third immigrant, making the plan a once-in-a-generation opportunity to invest in a largely women of color workforce. It would also put women — especially Black, Latina, Asian and immigrant women who perform the bulk of care work — at the center of our nation’s economic recovery and create the foundation of a more diverse, resilient middle class. 

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SEIU Healthcare Minnesota represents nearly 50,000 healthcare and long term care workers in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and home care across Minnesota

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Following July 20th Strike, St. Paul Nursing Home Workers Win Strong New Contract

VICTORY!Members of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota at Cerenity Humboldt Care Center in St. Paul voted Thursday to approve new contract that blocked concessions employer was proposing and won strong gains for frontline, essential workers

Healthcare workers employed by Cerenity Humboldt Care Center in St. Paul voted Thursday to approve a new two-year contract with 94% support from members who voted. The tentative agreement was reached on August 10th following the healthcare workers holding a 24-hour ULP strike on July 20th. The two sides had been bargaining for six months, but came quickly to an agreement in bargaining sessions following the successful 24-hour strike. SEIU Healthcare Minnesota represents 85 healthcare workers who do work as Cooks, Housekeepers, Janitors, Nursing Assistants, Laundry Aides, Dietary Aides, and Restorative Aides.

 

Key gains won by the workers include:

  • At least 4% raises for all workers, with the base pay for cooks raising over 22% to $15 per hour and the base pay of housekeepers raising over 13%.
  • Pay increase for shift leads
  • Blocking proposals to roll back sick time
  • Stopping employer plan to restrict leaves of absences

Rhonda Little, who has been a cook at Cerenity for over 5 years and is a member of the SEIU Healthcare MN negotiating team, shared her reaction to the new contract getting ratified.

“It is clear that our strike was a huge success. I’m so proud that we stood together and were able to win such a strong contract. Our unity allowed us to go right back to the bargaining table after the strike and make sure we were able to keep our sick time and win increased wages for so many people. Finally getting this contract is a relief, especially during a pandemic. I’m hoping this means we can get and retain good employees who can help us continue to provide outstanding care and services our patients need,” said Little. “I know we would not have won all of what we won without going out on strike. To healthcare workers and all essential workers: stay strong and stick together during these challenging times, and never be afraid to fight for what you deserve.”

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SEIU Healthcare Minnesota represents over 40,000 healthcare and long term care workers in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and home care across Minnesota

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Minnesota Home Care Workers Praise Bipartisan Votes as House and Senate Consider Wage and Benefit Increase for Home Care Work During COVID19 

Change would increase wages and benefits for the workers who care for Minnesota seniors and people with disabilities

Saint Paul – The Minnesota House Health and Human Services Finance Division voted with bipartisan support Monday to move forward a bill that would increase rates for Personal Care Attendant (PCA) services in Minnesota during COVID-19. Last week the Senate HHS Reform Committee took similar action.

HS_Remote_Hearing_rsThe bills, HF168 and SF3694, would lift wages and benefits for the workers who are ensuring Minnesota seniors and people with disabilities get the care they need to live in their homes by increasing rates by 15% during the current pandemic.

Stacie Zamora is a home care worker, Registered Nurse at United Hospital and member of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota. She testified at Monday’s hearing about the need for this bill to help address the ongoing “care crisis” in our state, a situation where there aren’t enough home care workers to support Minnesotans who want to stay in their homes due to low pay and lack of benefits.

“A 15% increase to wages and benefits will give PCAs the hazard pay that all healthcare workers deserve,” said Zamora. “For the safety of [my client] Brent, his PCAs, myself, and my patients, we need this rate increase so these can be stable jobs with the tools to keep clients safe.”

This crisis has only become more acute during the COVID-19 pandemic when the low pay and lack of benefits have caused many of the people who care for our loved ones to have to choose between their health and their paycheck. This is happening at a time when it is even more critical for people with underlying health conditions to be able to stay in their homes to not risk getting exposed to COVID-19.

In a hearing on the Senate version of this bill last Wednesday, home care worker and SEIU Healthcare Minnesota member Debra Howze shared the urgency of this matter:

“It’s vital that PCAs and family caregivers get this wage increase, PPE, and sick time RIGHT NOW or the care crisis is only going to get more critical.”

Following the bipartisan votes of support, home care recipient Adrienne Kleinman shared her excitement about the momentum the bill now seems to have:

“I’m really pleased to know there’s broad bipartisan support for this bill. This increase would make it possible for me to recruit and retain the PCAs I rely on every day,” said Kleinman. “That’s a security that I need now more than ever!”

The next stop for the bills will be the Ways and Means committee in the House and the Health and Human Services Finance committee in the Senate.

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SEIU Healthcare MN Leader James Holt, Father of Alec, Responds to House and Senate Passage of Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act 

SAINT PAUL – SEIU Healthcare Minnesota member leader James Holt, father of Alec, shared his feelings following the passage of the Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act by the Minnesota House and Senate.

James_holt_insult_rs“Passing this bill means the world to me. It makes me feel like Alec didn’t die in vain. I think back to the first time I told this story, at a SEIU member meeting, and I just knew that we didn’t want anyone else to have to lose their child to corporate greed like we had. I’m thankful for the many elected officials who have helped make this a reality, from then Rep. Erin Murphy for being the first to support us telling our story to Rep. Mike Howard for helping bring it across the finish line,” said Holt.
“It was a long time coming. We know the creator of insulin gave it away for $1 to help save lives, but over the years the greed of Big Pharma made it so expensive that people like Alec were literally dying because they couldn’t afford this lifesaving medicine. I’m glad this bill moves us back towards a world where your life isn’t determined by what medicine you can afford. At moments it felt like we were hitting only potholes, but I am overjoyed to know that the passage of the  Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act will mean families won’t have to go through what we did. No one in Minnesota or anywhere should die because they can’t afford basic medicine. I’m thankful for today’s passage and thinking of Alec as we celebrate his bill becoming law.”
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State’s Largest Healthcare Workers’ Union Welcomes Walz Executive Order To Provide DHS Flexibility To Fight COVID-19

Order will allow faster staffing of nursing homes and helps homecare workers and clients be safer

SAINT PAUL – Members and leaders of the state’s largest healthcare union, SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, praised the announcement of Governor Walz’s Executive Order 20-12 today that “allows DHS to temporarily issue waivers or modifications to state requirements to ensure that their services can be delivered to Minnesotans safely and without undue delay, protecting vulnerable Minnesotans and those who care for them.”

CDC-coronavirus-image-23311_rsDelores Flynn, a Roseville mother whose son Scott requires 24-hour-a-day home care to survive, shared why this matters to the thousands of seniors and people with disabilities who receive care in their homes from home care workers.

“For families with loved ones who need care, this crisis is literally life or death. Families like mine are feeling the urgency and fear of the unknown. We need help and support. We have been struggling to keep our current caregivers and worried about the impact of Covid-19 if we don’t have the right people to care for Scott,” said Flynn. “I know through the union that thousands of Minnesota seniors and people with disabilities are sharing the same concerns I have about how we get the care our families need in a safe and efficient way. I am happy to hear that the Governor has waived some in-person requirements that would have slowed down the process of getting Scott the care he depends on. Relaxing background checks and other administrative burdens will allow us to find new workers faster, and right now that is what families across our state need to be safe and healthy.”

SEIU Healthcare Minnesota Executive Board member Melody Nordy, a TMA at the Luther Haven nursing home in Montevideo, shared the importance of this action for that group of workers.

“This is especially important for nursing home workers so we can operate safely under the threat of COVID-19. We need nursing homes to be fully staffed to provide the care our residents need across the state. We must not let the failure to process background checks and other criteria stand in the way of getting people to do this critical work.”

SEIU Healthcare Minnesota President Jamie Gulley, who is currently serving on the Governor’s Covid Advisory Task Force, shared why these actions are so critical to keeping families safe.

“Frontline healthcare workers in our union have been performing heroically throughout this whole ordeal. I am glad the Governor continues to take actions to support and protect these incredible workers. We know that the COVID-19 outbreak requires fast and effective action, especially in matters that directly and immediately affect public health. We know the Governor has the authority and the responsibility to act and are thankful he has taken this important step. As a member of the Governor’s COVID Advisory Task Force, I know this is in line with what many provider, labor, and advocacy groups have urged him to do on this issue.”

In addition to Executive Order 20-12, Executive Order 20-11 allows state agencies to seek federal authority to change or waive some federal requirements applicable to these programs and services. As noted in the Governor’s announcement, DHS provides health care coverage, programs, and services for over 1 million Minnesotans, including groups likely to be significantly impacted by COVID-19 such as older adults, individuals who have disabilities, families with children, and individuals with mental illness. Earlier this week, SEIU Healthcare Minnesota joined over 200 other organizations on a letter calling for actions like these to take place to help ensure Minnesota healthcare workers and families are safe.

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

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SEIU Healthcare Minnesota Member James Holt, Jr. Responds to GOP Insulin Proposal

SAINT PAUL – Following the Senate Republicans announcing their plans to address the insulin crisis, SEIU Healthcare Minnesota member James Holt, Jr. released the following statement. 
 
Jame_Holt_Insulin_rs“As a father to Alec, a healthcare worker and a leader of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, I want a solution to this insulin crisis more than words can explain. I’m proud to be part of a union and a movement that believes every person – no matter our race, wealth or zip code – deserves the medicine they need to not just survive but thrive. I am glad the Senate Republicans today engaged in this important conversation, but what they’ve proposed isn’t the solution we need to meet the challenge of Pharma greed that Minnesota families are facing. People are dying. They need emergency access. We need solutions that take into account the voices of the people directly affected. We need results, not just talk. We need our elected officials to show that the lives of Minnesotans are more important than corporate healthcare profits. To ensure no one else has to die like Alec did, we need elected officials to directly take on Big Pharma and the corporate greed that is killing people so CEOs can make more money. We need Insulin For ALL.”
 
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Changes to Nursing Home Reimbursement In Gov. Walz’s Budget Raise Questions For Nursing Home Workers

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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The SEIU Minnesota State Council coordinates the electoral, legislative and outreach work of the SEIU Locals in Minnesota to increase the effectiveness of their efforts to organize unorganized workers in critical sectors of our economy, improve wages, hours and working conditions, and build political and legislative power for all workers and their families.  The State Council’s board is comprised of elected leaders, SEIU members and staff of the various SEIU Local Unions in Minnesota, and that board, with the active participation and input of our broader membership, determines our endorsements.

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

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

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

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

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

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The SEIU Minnesota State Council coordinates the electoral, legislative and outreach work of the SEIU Locals in Minnesota to increase the effectiveness of their efforts to organize unorganized workers in critical sectors of our economy, improve wages, hours and working conditions, and build political and legislative power for all workers and their families.  The State Council’s board is comprised of elected leaders, SEIU members and staff of the various SEIU Local Unions in Minnesota, and that board, with the active participation and input of our broader membership, determines our endorsements.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saint Paul, Minn—The 2018 legislative session ended without any new investments in home care work, despite high profile attention to a care crisis that is affecting seniors and people with disabilities across the state. The crisis was front-page news with stories highlighting the fact that there are over 8,000 vacancies in the state’s personal care attendant programs due to low wages and lack of benefits.

While disappointed about the lack of investment in care work, home care workers with SEIU did praise legislators from both parties for standing up to protect their union rights from those who attempted to weaken them this session.

“Minnesotans want a state where our loved ones can get the care they need and deserve in their own homes. Home care workers and our clients came to the Capitol throughout the session to make sure our elected officials understood the crisis facing families in every corner of the state,” said Dawn Burnfin, a mother and home care worker from Chisholm in Northern Minnesota and elected member of the SEIU Healthcare Minnesota executive board. “Make no mistake, inaction means more pain, frustration and heartache for families across Minnesota. This is wrong and we will mobilize home care workers to make sure legislators understand the need for investments in care between now and the November elections.”

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The advocacy by SEIU Healthcare Minnesota members, seniors and people with disabilities generated bi-partisan support to raise wages, with bills being introduced in both the House and Senate. Money for a pay increase was included in Governor Dayton’s proposed budget. Despite broad support for the issue, the pay raises were not included in the final budget bill. This inaction has caused frustration for the thousands of families across the state personally affected by this growing crisis.

“While I’m extremely disappointed we didn’t win steps forward for our families around home care funding, it serves as a reminder about the importance of elections and getting people into office who share our values around the care and dignity of our families,” said Delores Flynn, a Union supporter and mother and caretaker of an adult son who needs 24-hour care to stay in his home. “I’m ready to work as hard as possible to make sure we have people in office who understand the challenges facing families like mine.”

Following session, Delores joined home care workers, clients, faith, labor and community organizations in launching a “Care Voter” effort for the 2018 election. The “Care Voter” initiative will seek to mobilize voters to educate candidates and fellow voters about ways the next legislature can support care givers and the people they care for. The “Care Voter” initiative will be a key part of SEIU’s member electoral program this fall and summer.

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