SEIU MN State Council
Media Relations Coordinator
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.”
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.
Albert Lea, Minn — After a contentious, multi-year fight, members of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota who work at the Albert Lea Mayo Hospital have reached an agreement with Mayo Clinic. The two sides reached a tentative agreement the week of May 7th for both groups of workers (general group and skilled maintenance) that have been without contracts for nearly two years.
After giving members time to look over the tentative agreement, a majority of SEIU members voted to approve the plan Monday. The agreement came following members authorizing a second strike in a vote in late April. With a possible second, longer strike looming, the two sides were able to reach an agreement that found both sides compromising at the May bargaining sessions.
Workers expressed pride in standing up for good jobs and quality rural healthcare, even as Mayo dug in on certain policy proposals that the group had hoped to stop.
“Being able to win really good pay raises and making sure our contract does not include a subcontracting clause for skilled maintenance jobs were big wins,” said Nate Johnson, Chief Engineer and 20-year Mayo employee. “We wish we had been able to get them to move on everything we wanted, but I’m incredibly proud that we stood up for what is right and won the positive changes that we did. We hope we showed other workers, both here in Albert Lea and across the state, that there is power in standing up for what is right for working families.”
The groups won pay increases ranging from 7.25% to 10% over the three years of the contract. While Mayo won the right to change four core benefits during the term of the contract, workers won a contract provision that those benefits will be offered to all full-time and part-time (.5 and over) employees during the term of the contract, an important win for members. The contract also included protections and support for workers who may have to transition to Austin, even as the union continues to oppose any reductions in staff or services in Albert Lea. It also preserved holiday pay, which was one of the driving issues behind the Dec. 22nd strike and Christmas lockout.
“We took a stand, against the odds, because we believed that the work we do in our community hospital is important for our families, our neighbors and our communities,” said Sheri Wichmann, who has worked in sterile processing for 18 years. “Going on strike and being locked out showed we firmly believed in our fight for good jobs and good healthcare here in Albert Lea. We remain committed to those values. While you always wish you had been able to win everything you set out for at the start, we are proud we were able to move Mayo on important issues facing our families and community.”
As part of the agreement, both sides agreed to drop NLRB charges against the other.
SEIU Healthcare Minnesota represents over 35,000 healthcare and long term care workers in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and home care across Minnesota.
Extremists in Congress, including Minnesota GOP members, are rushing to rip healthcare from millions of Americans and end Medicaid as we know it with extreme cuts to funding healthcare for children, seniors and people with disabilities who have the least ability to pay.
This would mean weaker protections for our health security, higher costs and less care for millions of our families, patients, consumers and our communities. Lives are at risk. Care in is on the line. Communities will suffer.
On March 16th, join the National Medicaid call-in day to protect our care.
Call 866-426-2631 and tell them why healthcare matters to you & your family.
Tell them to vote “no” on the healthcare repeal bill. Tell them we can’t afford for healthcare and Medicaid to be taken away from children, seniors and people with disabilities who need it most. Tell them we can’t afford for our loved ones to lose protections for pre-existing conditions, and for monthly premiums and co-pays to go up for Minnesotans.
Congressional leaders are rushing to push through this bill so it becomes law in as few as 30 days. Please join Minnesotans from across the state in calling your member of Congress on March 16th.
We must take action now.
Saint Paul – Home care workers and clients came together Wednesday at the Capitol to highlight the care crisis facing seniors and people with disabilities in Minnesota. The event came just days before home care workers with SEIU Healthcare Minnesota begin their contract negotiations with the State of Minnesota, with a goal of making real strides in addressing the growing crisis. (more…)
Brooklyn Center, Minn – Following the first ever Summit on Direct Support Workforce, home care workers and clients spoke out about what is needed to truly address the growing crisis facing care work in Minnesota that was continually highlighted at the summit. The summit was hosted by the Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS).
Among the 200+ participants Tuesday was Richard Monks, a home care worker from Shoreview and a member of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota.
“It was clear after today’s summit that everyone is on the same page about the core issue driving the care crisis, which is the low wages many caregivers receive. Facing this reality, home care workers across the state with SEIU will be pushing for the Fight for $15 in our coming contract to begin addressing this emergency,” said Monks. “To really make certain all Minnesotans receive the care they deserve, and to take a big step towards addressing our care crisis, we need to value this work. One of the main components needs to be providing funding in the state budget and raising the wages of the people caring for seniors and people with disabilities across Minnesota.”
One of the panelists speaking at the summit was Nikki Villavicencio, a home care client and mother from Maplewood.
“Home care needs to be treated as a real career. Home care workers need livable wages, access to the materials and training they need, and support from their peers,” said Villavicencio in her remarks to the summit. “Home care workers are my bridge to the community. People with disabilities need to be fully integrated into society, in truly meaningful ways. Without my home care worker, I can’t leave my house in the morning. I can’t be an active member of my community.”
Pattie Urie, a home care worker from St. Paul and a member of the SEIU Healthcare Minnesota union, attended the summit Tuesday.
“I am a mother who provides home care services for my daughter, and I also hire others to assist in providing care when I cannot,” said Urie. “I know firsthand how important it is to have properly trained home care workers across the state, and how proper training can and will help to strengthen our industry.
“As we talk about steps forward to address our crisis, making sure everyone in our industry has comprehensive training is so important, which is why our union fought to get funding into our first contract for free CPR and first aid training for thousands of home care workers starting next month,” Urie continued. “We need to make sure these jobs are valued so that those receiving care are able to live with dignity in their homes.”
Also attending the event was Sumer Spika, a home care worker from St. Paul and an elected Vice President of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota.
“Today was an important day that highlighted what thousands of families already know: There is a crisis in the home care field in Minnesota,” said Spika. “I am glad that home care workers and clients attended today as we see every day the implications of this crisis. I hope that in the future there will continue to be opportunities for families directly impacted by the care crisis to have a voice in crafting solutions.
“While it was good that we talked today about things like raising wages and building on the training fund we won in our first contract, we also need to deal with the immediate crisis of capped hours caused by the state not providing funding to come into compliance with federal overtime law,” Spika added. “This is hurting clients and hurting workers right now, and we need to work to fix both the long-term crisis facing seniors and people with disabilities who deserve good care, but also the current crisis that is causing so much pain for families across the state.”
In addition to home care workers and clients, members of the TakeAction Minnesota Senior caucus joined the event in their work to address the care crisis facing our state.
“As a leader with the TakeAction Minnesota Senior Caucus, we’ve held listening sessions across the state and know that finding caregivers to provide the services needed is challenging and something we are fighting to address,” said Bob Robbins, a leader in the senior caucus. “We’ve heard of home care workers leaving jobs because a big box store pays better, and this only makes the care crisis worse. 10,000 people day are retiring across the country, so this is not an issue we can wait to address.”
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.
Minneapolis, Minn — This morning the Minneapolis City Council introduced language for an Earned Sick and Safe Time ordinance at their Committee of the Whole hearing. Following the hearing, SEIU Minnesota State Council Executive Director Brian Elliott, who was a member of the Workplace Partnership Group that provided the recommendation for the ordinance, released the following statement:
“SEIU members have fought for years both through their union and through their elected officials to ensure no one has to choose between the health of their family and the paycheck they need to cover rent, food and other basic needs. I am proud to have worked with business leaders large and small, workers who currently lack sick time and community groups as a member of the Workplace Partnership Group that spent dozens of hours coming to the compromise we resoundingly supported with a 13-1 vote.
“I am glad the Council took our compromise as a basis for this policy, and will continue to advocate for language that makes certain we aren’t leaving any families behind. I am hopeful the Council will get this policy in place as soon as possible and cover every worker in our city so we can finally address the crisis of nearly 42% of workers in Minneapolis not having access to any paid sick time. Passing a strong Earned Sick and Safe Time ordinance will be a positive step to address our city’s racial disparities and will make our city stronger for both workers and business.”
SEIU is the workers who provide care and support for your family in public schools, hospitals, higher education, nursing homes, schools, in your homes 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 the approximately 53,000 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 five SEIU Local Unions in Minnesota.