Press Releases

Minnesota Essential Workers React to Announcement of Working Group Members for $250 Million Fund

SAINT PAUL, Minn – Frontline workers who sacrificed during the COVID-19 pandemic spoke out Wednesday on the need for speedy, fair compensation from a $250 million fund created by the Legislature and administered by a new, nine-member working group.

Essential_worker_fund_v2“The table is set, it’s time to dig in,” said Mary C. Turner, president of the Minnesota Nurses Association. “Lawmakers have been promising to care for essential, frontline workers. It’s time to make sure these funds go to back pay and fulfill the needs of those workers who had to sacrifice pay and benefits during the pandemic.”

The coalition of groups, including SEIU, MNA, Education Minnesota, We Make MN, AFSCME Council 65, Unidos MN, CTUL, the Awood Center, the AFL-CIO and others, pushed legislators to make sure this money is used in a way that begins the process of supporting the workers who gave so much this last year. The groups will continue to advocate the working group on multiple points regarding this money:

  • The working group must ensure that this money is easily accessible by the frontline, essential workers who have earned it through their sacrifices for us during this pandemic.

  • The working group must ensure what workers get is proportional to their sacrifice to help make these essential workers whole.

  • The working group must ensure that workers have a seat at the table in the decision-making process and that money gets into the hands of workers as soon as possible.

Odemaris Mercado, a janitor for ABM who cleans the Cargill building and is an Executive Board member of her union, SEIU Local 26, shared the urgency of this work:

“This $250 million is a great start, but essential workers like me need action. When I had COVID I thought I was going to die. While I missed work I got no pay from my employer. I used all my vacation and sick time – and my union gave me $300 – but I still am struggling to pay my rent and bills. I had to ask family and friends for food and money to support my family. I hope the working group listens to workers, works fast and gets money into the hands of essential workers as soon as possible.”

Workers have been fighting for essential worker pay since the special legislative sessions in the fall of 2020. After the Minnesota House of Representatives passed the Essential Workers Emergency Leave Act, authored by Rep. Cedrick Fraizer, the Senate GOP blocked the same bill authored by Sen. Erin Murphy.

MAPE Vice President Angela Halseth shared how this is an important first step:

“We are glad to see this taskforce get started, but it is just that – a start. I and my colleagues spent the last year dealing with outbreak after outbreak in the correctional facilities. We did everything we could to stop the spread but still we got sick, our families got sick, and our clients got sick,” said Halseth. “We are like hundreds of thousands of Minnesotans who endured over the last year while on the front lines. We look forward to collaborating with the taskforce to bring these stories to the forefront and find ways to make people whole again.”

The Essential Workers Emergency Leave Act would have required employers to give their workers quarantine pay or time off to recover from vaccination; many businesses qualify for a dollar-for-dollar, up-front federal tax credit to cover the cost of such payment. Worker advocates say the refusal by the Senate GOP, under pressure from by the Chamber of Commerce and hospital executives, to ask employers to do right by their workers left millions of federal dollars on the table that could have benefitted essential workers.

 

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Home Care Workers and Clients With SEIU Healthcare Minnesota Celebrate Legislature Funding and Ratifying Contract and Making Other Policy Changes That Will Help Tens of Thousands of Families 

Groundbreaking agreement that covers nearly 29,000 workers will raise pay floor to $15.25 

SAINT PAUL – Home care workers and clients celebrated a state budget deal that included the funding and ratification of the union contract that covers nearly 29,000 home care workers across Minnesota. The contract, negotiated earlier this year with the administration of Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, saw strong bipartisan support in both chambers of the legislature. 

87935Kristina Walker, a home care worker from Crystal who helps provide care for her older brother who needs 24-hour care after having a stroke, shared why the contract is so important to families across the state: 

“I love that I can keep my loved one near me and make sure they get good care. I am literally my brother’s keeper. I’ve cared for other people but caring for my brother has brought us even closer. But it’s hard to survive paying the bills with the ways things are,” said Walker. “I’m excited for the wage increase which will help me and my brother be able to look for better housing and bring stability to our family. Home care workers did so much this last year, and have so much dignity in our work, so winning this wage increase, increased training gains and extra benefits will be a big step towards getting us where we need to be. And some of the other home care policy changes adopted by lawmakers are going to make other needed improvements too. We still have work to do, but this opens the gates for a better future for home care workers and better care for everyone who needs care.”

The contract agreement was reached between members of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota and the State of Minnesota in January and will bring in over $350 million in additional state and federal funding over the next four years for services for seniors and people with disabilities. The contract, the fourth between the state and the statewide home care workers’ union, includes gains such as a $15.25 minimum wage for all home care workers beginning July 1, 2022. 

Marty Eleby, a 25-year home care worker from Minneapolis who currently makes $13.25, shared why this contract is so important to care workers and the clients they serve:

“I love caring for people, making sure they are safe and happy, but it is hard to do this work for such little pay. With the higher pay coming from this contract, I can make sure myself and my client have more of the things we need to get by,” said Eleby. “So many Minnesotans depend on home care workers to survive, get the treatment they need to stay at home and just to have company so they aren’t alone. Seeing the wage floor go up to $15.25 and getting more benefits & training will help make sure we have enough caregivers who will do this work to ensure our clients get the care they deserve.”

Ratification and funding of the home care workers’ contract has attracted strong bipartisan support in both chambers. Once it is signed by the Governor, the provisions in the contract will go into effect on July 1st, 2021. The chief authors of the stand-alone funding and ratification bills were Rep. Luke Frederick (DFL–Mankato) and Rep. Michael Nelson (DFL–Brooklyn Park) in the House and Senator Jeff Howe (R–Rockville) and Senator Jeremy Miller (R–Winona) in the Senate.

Lauren Thompson, a home care client from Crystal who was on the bargaining team, shared the importance of this contract for people who rely on home care services to live their lives:

“This contract starts to create a stable foundation that home care clients haven’t had in a very long time. These investments will mean our workers can have sustainable employment and we as clients can be safer. This industry has been so deprived for so long and this contract begins to fill the gaps and professionalize and incentivise this critical work,” said Thompson. “COVID exacerbated the existing problems of finding home care workers for so many Minnesotans. Funding home care and making sure people can live at home is not only the right thing to do, but saves lives and money. This contract, and the other improvements to home care made by Gov. Walz and state lawmakers, is a step towards dismantling ableism and creating equity not only in terms of helping build a sustainable workforce for workers but also making it so clients have access to our community and can simply live our lives.”

The bargaining team — made up of home care workers, clients and family caregivers — negotiated with the state over four months to reach this agreement, culminating in an 18-hour bargaining session on January 15th when the final agreement was reached. Union home care workers overwhelmingly voted to ratify the tentative agreement in early February. Even before COVID, thousands of families across Minnesota were struggling with a care crisis causing seniors and people with disabilities to not be able to find workers to provide the care they need to stay safely in their homes.

Highlights of the contract include:

  • Minimum wage increased from $13.25 to $14.40 in October 2021 and to $15.25 in July 2022, a 15% increase
  • More Paid Time Off: accrual rate improved from 1 hour per 40 hours worked to 1 hour per 30 hours worked
  • Two new floating holidays paid at time-and-a-half each year, allowing home care workers to receive extra pay when their clients need care on religious holidays for the first time, and bringing the total time-and-a-half holidays in the union contract each year to 7
  • Added funding to provide trainings and $500 stipends for home care workers who complete a set of training courses, to enhance the quality of care they provide to people with disabilities and seniors
  • Concrete steps toward further professionalization of the Minnesota home care workforce in the future, such as establishing a higher wage for long-time/experienced home care workers and providing better orientation to new home care workers

Thanks to President Biden’s American Rescue Plan and strong bipartisan support for home care at the state level, an additional set of improvements and investments in home care were also approved by state legislators and Gov. Walz. They include:

  • Over $30 million in additional state funding for PCAs (matched by a greater amount than that from the federal government, thanks to the American Rescue Plan) through a new PCA rate framework that will allow an additional wage increase on top of the $14.40 negotiated in the union contract, to be set through collective bargaining
  • Home care workers will be compensated for time spent driving clients to appointments, for the first time 
  • More home care workers will qualify for the 7.5% “enhanced rate” (an additional wage increase made available through our union contract): now the threshold to qualify will be if your client is assessed to need 10 or more hours a day of services, instead of 12
  • The pandemic measure to allow parents and spouses to be compensated for PCA services will be extended until the end of the peacetime emergency
  • $5 million in workforce-developments grants for Home and Community Based Services 

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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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Essential Workers React to Report of $250 Million Deal to Support Minnesota Workers

Saint Paul – Following reports that legislators reached an agreement to spend $250 million to support essential workers who stepped up and kept our state safe and running during COVID, workers who are pushing to make this a reality spoke out about the importance of this first step and the need to make sure that workers who were left behind get the support they so desperately deserve as soon as possible.

seiu_press_member_speaker_capitolTroy Bowman, a Minneapolis janitor and SEIU Local 26 member who missed a month of work and lost pay the whole time because of COVID, shared why he fought so hard to get to this point:

“I want to thank all involved for supporting the measure that sets aside $250 million dollars for essential workers. It means that frontline workers who put their lives at risk for everyone, and felt we were not being heard, have been heard,” said Bowman. “Allocating these funds is a start towards paying back the Minnesotans who have given so much to keep us safe and our state running during COVID.”

“The fight will continue. It should not be this complicated to make sure the thousands of nurses, janitors, security officers, day care providers, warehouse workers and other frontline, essential workers are compensated for their sacrifices,” continued Bowman. “Our work to raise our voices will go on. We need to make sure that money finally gets into the hands of the hardworking Minnesotans who gave so much over this last year and specifically that it reaches the workers who lost time when they quarantined or simply recovered from being vaccinated.”

The coalition of groups, including SEIU, the Minnesota Nurses Association, Education Minnesota, We Make MN, AFSCME Council 65, Unidos MN, CTUL, the Awood Center, the AFL-CIO and others, also are pushing legislators to make sure this money is used in a way that begins the process of supporting the workers who gave so much this last year. The groups are pushing the Governor and legislators on multiple points regarding this money:

  • The working group must ensure that this money is easily accessible by the frontline, essential workers who have earned it through their sacrifices for us during this pandemic.

  • The working group must ensure what workers get is proportional to that sacrifice to help make these essential workers whole.

  • The working group must ensure that workers have a seat at the table in this decision-making process and that money gets into the hands of workers as soon as possible.

“While this commitment represents a good start, nurses and essential workers expect legislators to recognize the sacrifices we’ve made to keep us all safe and the state running during this pandemic,” said Mary C. Turner, president of the Minnesota Nurses Association. “Because let’s be clear, bonuses are for bankers. For workers, this is backpay. This is making up for what we lost in pay and benefits while sitting in quarantine or waiting for tests.”

Representative Cedrick Fraizer, the lead author of the HF41 – the Essential Worker Emergency Leave Act bill that passed the Minnesota House during the regular legislative session – reacted to the deal:

“I am appreciative of the efforts of Speaker Hortman and Governor Walz on securing these resources for our essential workers,” said Frazier. “However, I remain disappointed that The Chamber Of Commerce and the Hospital Association were given veto power, by the GOP, over the legislation that Senator Murphy and I carried. Their veto has closed the door on millions of federal dollars that would have made essential workers whole.”

Senator Erin Murphy, lead author of the Essential Workers Emergency Leave Act in the Senate shared this:

“I am hopeful about the inclusion of $250 million dollars in the final budget and appreciate the efforts of the Speaker and the Governor.

“The hardline efforts to block this legislation by the Chamber of Commerce and the Minnesota Hospital Association is troubling. The crisis of a global pandemic demanded exceptional sacrifices from frontline workers. They stepped into the risk, with courage, duty, and with care. In response, their employers are using their power to block efforts to restore workers‘ lost time and wages. That is deeply disappointing.

“I am committed to work with Representative Frazier and frontline workers as we build on the important work and success of this session.”

The Emergency Workers Leave Act would have required employers to give their workers quarantine pay or time off to recover from vaccination; many businesses qualify for a dollar-for-dollar, up-front federal tax credit to cover the cost of such payment. Worker advocates say the refusal by the Senate GOP, under pressure from by the Chamber of Commerce and hospital executives, to ask employers to do right by their workers left millions of federal dollars on the table that could have benefitted essential workers.

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Allina Healthcare Workers File 10-Day Notice For ULP Strike

Strike Covering Nearly 4,000 Essential Healthcare Workers with SEIU Healthcare MN Could Happen Across Multiple Facilities Starting May 10th

Members of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota voted early this month to authorize an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) strike after months of bargaining and employer offering frontline workers a 0% pay increase in the coming year

MINNESOTA — Frontline essential hospital workers at multiple Allina facilities who are members of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota announced that they have filed a 10-day notice for an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) strike for nearly 4,000 healthcare workers that could start on May 10th if the two sides don’t reach an agreement. 

107223Karen Cullen, who has worked in Environmental Services at Mercy Hospital for over 16 years and is a union steward with SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, shared why she was part of the informational picketing Wednesday and why she is ready to join the ULP strike if needed: 

“I’m ready to strike because I feel like it’s a shame our employer isn’t willing to see how hard all of us have worked through the pandemic on the front lines. We’re being treated like a number, not valued employees, and that feels very disrespectful,” said Cullen. “COVID has been difficult because of the fear that we will bring it home to our family. It’s critical for us essential healthcare workers to be valued so we can give the best quality care to our patients and our community. I am ready to strike so management realizes we are valuable employees and we deserve a contract that shows that they respect our work.”

Gene Sparks, a EMT at St. Francis Medical Center in Shakopee, shared the frustration of many of the essential healthcare workers who are ready to join the ULP strike if Allina refuses to reach a fair deal:

 “It is frustrating that Allina seems to be treating this like any other year or any other contract negotiations. We’ve been through too much this last year to be ok with 0% increase in the coming year. We’ve seen other industries offering hero pay and extra benefits to their employees for work during COVID, yet this is what we’re being offered. You can’t get much more essential than healthcare workers, yet here we are,” said Sparks. “Hopefully Allina comes to their senses and bargains with us, but if they aren’t willing to do that we are willing to stand up and show our worth. I hope it doesn’t have to get to that, but we’re ready if it does.”

SEIU Healthcare Minnesota represents nearly 4,000 healthcare workers in the Allina system, doing jobs such as Environmental Service Aids, Nursing Assistants, Nutrition Services, Emergency Department Techs, Patient Transport Aids, Patient Access Specialists, Sterile Processing Techs, Surgical Techs/Instrument Specialists, Health Unit Coordinators, Linen Aids, Rehabilitation Aids, Receiving Clerks, Warehouse Clerks, Materials Handlers, LPNs, Phlebotomy/EKG Assistants, Radiology Techs and more. SEIU Healthcare Minnesota members work at multiple facilities, including: Abbott Northwestern Hospital, Buffalo Hospital, Mercy Hospital, Unity Hospital, Owatonna Hospital, Phillips Eye Institute, St. Francis Regional Medical Center and United Hospital.

Brenda Hilbrich, the Executive Vice President of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota who is leading bargaining, shared details on plans:

“Our union is filing a 10-day notice for a ULP strike to start on May 10th if we can’t reach a contract settlement. The strike would start that Monday and last the whole week, with different facilities joining on different days,” said Hilbrich. “With our strike vote and this decision by our bargaining team we are making clear to Allina: we need a contract that respects us, protects us and pays us.”

Following informational pickets at Abbott Northwestern, St. Francis Medical Center and United Hospital earlier this month, Allina workers held an informational picket today at Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids. At the informational picket, SEIU leaders and community allies shared the news about the 10-day notice for a potential ULP strike at facilities across the state and highlighted how the healthcare workers who have kept Minnesotans safe and healthy during a global pandemic feel disrespected and devalued by current proposals from Allina management.

The two sides have bargained ten times since January and remain divided on key issues, including the fact that management is proposing a 0% pay increase for the first year of the contract. Allina has also refused to agree to needed changes around workplace safety and safe staffing, all while frontline healthcare workers still are dealing with the stress of working in hospitals during the pandemic. An overwhelming majority of workers voted to support a ULP strike if needed when voting happened in March. The two sides will meet again on May 3rd.

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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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SEIU Endorses Melvin Carter for Reelection as Mayor of St. Paul

In endorsing his campaign for second term, union members cite strong support for working families and commitment to fighting for underrepresented communities

SAINT PAUL — The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Minnesota State Council is proud to announce the endorsement of St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter for re-election. In voting to endorse Mayor Carter, the SEIU Minnesota State Council Executive Board highlighted his leadership in the ongoing work to improve labor standards for working families in St. Paul by passing $15 and Earned Sick and Safe Time, in addition to his work addressing the racial and economic inequalities.

We're with MELVIIN!“Mayor Carter has impressed me by his work looking out for the little guy, whether that is passing $15 or helping to support rebuilding small community stores. He has shown that he is willing to fight for the people and neighborhoods who don’t always have money or resources to get ahead,” said James Matias, a security officer member of SEIU Local 26 who works in St. Paul. “I appreciate his focus on people and places that too often are left behind. He has helped all of St. Paul, but he really looked out for the people who too often are overlooked. He’s a good person who has been around and been involved as long as I remember and I’m excited to re-elect him as mayor of St. Paul so he can continue his work making St. Paul a better place for all of us.”

“I see Mayor Carter out in the community and know he is passionate about making St. Paul a great place to live. You can tell he knows and cares about the people of St. Paul,” said Nazra Ahmed, a home care worker of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota who lives in St. Paul. “I look forward to seeing him reelected so we can continue to work together to address the homeless crisis, make sure working people are treated fairly and fight so every person feels safe and welcome in our city.”

“With everything that has happened over the last four years, it has been great having a leader like Melvin Carter as Mayor of St. Paul. Mayor Carter has fought for workers and at every step he has worked to bring people from different backgrounds to the table to find solutions. We have a lot of work to do going forward with COVID and our lingering racial and social inequalities, and we know Mayor Carter is the best person for the job,” said Kelly Gibbons, Executive Director of SEIU Local 284. “I’m excited our Union has endorsed Mayor Carter for another term and am ready to do the work to make sure he has another four years to continue his work.”

SEIU represents over 7,500 workers who live or work in St. Paul.

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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 60,000 workers 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.

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Union Home Care Workers Reach and Surpass $15 Minimum Wage in Tentative Agreement For Contract With State of Minnesota

SAINT PAUL — Home care workers and clients with SEIU Healthcare Minnesota reached a Tentative Agreement (TA) with the State of Minnesota early Saturday morning, after more than 18 hours of bargaining, for their fourth union contract, including winning a $15.25 minimum wage for all home care workers in the second year of the two-year contract that would begin in July of 2021.

LaTanya Hughes is a home care worker in Minneapolis, Vice President of the Union and mother of two children who rely on care services. As a member of the bargaining team, she shared what these steps would mean for thousands of caregivers across the state:

IMG_0476“By raising wages it feels like our state is finally starting to recognize the importance of this job, done mostly by women and women of color, and getting closer to paying us the living wage this work deserves. Higher pay for this critical work is long overdue so caregivers won’t have to work so many hours just to survive,” said Hughes. “Not having to spread myself so thin would mean I can give better care to my clients instead of having to take on more and more clients just to pay the bills. This wage increase would not just help me as a home care worker, but also allow me to be able to find home care workers to help care for my two daughters who require care. I am incredibly proud of our bargaining team working so hard to get this tentative agreement. I also appreciate that Governor Walz has taken the time over the last two years to learn about home care workers and the struggles we are facing and thank him for following through on his commitment to lifting up the value of our work caring for seniors and people with disabilities.”

The full details of the tentative agreement, which covers over 20,000 home care workers across the state, are currently being shared with members who will have a chance to vote on its approval in the coming weeks, but highlights include:

  • Minimum wage increased from $13.25 to $14.40 in October 2021 and to $15.25 in July 2022, a 15% increase

  • More Paid Time Off: accrual rate improved from 1 hour per 40 hours worked to 1 hour per 30 hours worked

  • Two new floating holidays paid at time-and-a-half each year, allowing home care workers to receive extra pay when their clients need care on religious holidays for the first time, and bringing the total time-and-a-half holidays in the union contract each year to 7

  • Added funding to provide trainings and $500 stipends for home care workers who complete a set of training courses to enhance the quality of care they provide to seniors and people with disabilities

  • A commitment to work together to research future options for further professionalization of the Minnesota home care workforce in the future, such as establishing a higher wage for long-time/experienced home care workers and providing better orientation to new home care workers

Dawn Burnfin, a home care worker on the bargaining team from Chisholm on the Iron Range, shared her feelings about the tentative agreement as someone who does this critical work:

“This contract gets us closer to the living wage that every home care worker – no matter where we live or what we look like – should have for doing this important work. This wage increase will mean material improvements for both the people who get the care and those of us who do this hard work every day. Lifting up this work is a win-win for both us and the state, helping to recognize this important work and also keeping people in their homes instead of expensive institutions. That was always the right thing to do, but during the COVID-19 pandemic it has become even clearer how essential it is for people to have that option to remain in their homes and communities,” said Burnfin. “I also am excited we won two floating paid holidays, allowing us to get time-and-a-half whether it is a family event or a specific religious holiday. I’m proud we fought for and won a benefit that recognizes the diversity of our membership and allows everyone to recognize whatever religious observance or other day is most important to them.”

“Every one of us will need care for ourselves or for a loved one at some point in our lives, and when that time comes we want every Minnesotan to be able to have a professional workforce that keeps them safe and healthy,” Burnfin continued. “We’re excited to reach this agreement and look forward to working with our legislators from both parties in ratifying this contract.”

If the Tentative Agreement gets ratified by Union members, it will then go to the legislature for their approval and funding. The final step would be having it signed by Governor Walz and go into effect July 1st, 2021, with some of its economic provisions taking effect on October 1st. The negotiations took place in the months preceding budget negotiations in order to ensure that legislators have the opportunity to review the terms of the proposed agreement and vote on whether to ratify it.

Lauren Thompson, a client from Champlin who was on the bargaining team, shared the importance of this contract for people who rely on home care services to live their lives:

“Our history of paying home care workers poverty wages has meant that we’ve treated people with disabilities poorly and it means not valuing our lives. By raising wages for home care workers to something closer to a true living wage, we are helping to improve the quality of life for clients like me who rely on home care workers to live our lives. This contract is a step towards showing that Minnesota values the independence of seniors and people with disabilities,” said Thompson. “The decisions our state makes through things like our budget and this contract determine whether we recognize and respect people with disabilities and our caregivers. I am glad that our bargaining team reached a deal that moves us forward and will help thousands of families. Now I look forward to the legislature ratifying and funding this contract.”

The bargaining team — made up of home care workers, clients and family caregivers — negotiated with the state over four months to reach this agreement. Even before COVID, thousands of families across Minnesota were struggling with a care crisis causing seniors and people with disabilities not being able to find workers to provide the care that they need to stay safely in their homes.

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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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Essential Workers with SEIU Praise Introduction of Emergency Leave Bill in Minnesota House

SAINT PAUL – Essential workers in Minnesota who are members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) praised the introduction of a Minnesota House bill that would provide emergency paid leave if Minnesotans have to miss work to quarantine after contracting or being exposed to COVID-19. HF41, chief authored by Rep. Cedrick Frazier (DFL-New Hope), would provide 100 hours of emergency paid leave to full-time workers who have missed work because they quarantined after COVID exposure. The bill also allows paid time if a family member contracts COVID-19 or if schools are closed related to the pandemic. 

Screen Shot 2021-01-12 at 11.00.46 AMNaomi Zeiss, a Registered Nurse at HealthPartners and member of SEIU Healthcare MN, shared why this bill would be so important for healthcare workers across the state. 
“Healthcare workers have been praised as heroes throughout this pandemic, but as we’ve been working tirelessly to keep Minnesotans healthy we have often had to struggle to get the support we deserve. Despite our advocacy, healthcare workers exposed to COVID still have to use our PTO or sick time, or go unpaid, if we are exposed to COVID,” said Zeiss. “If an employee has to quarantine after an exposure but doesn’t yet have symptoms or if a child cannot attend school or childcare due to a Covid exposure and a parent has to stay home, we have to use vacation time or go unpaid. We are only being allowed to use our accrued sick time if we or a household member is exhibiting symptoms of Covid. We are working in a pandemic with less staff and higher stress than ever before.” 
 
“HealthCare workers should not be financially penalized for being honest and reporting exposure,” Zeiss continued. “I am hopeful all of the elected officials who have praised our work will put some action behind their words in order to make up for where employers have unfortunately let essential workers down. This bill, especially the provision of retroactive pay for people who were forced to use personal time or go unpaid earlier in this pandemic, is something that would help thousands of families across Minnesota.”
Elia Starkweather, a janitor and member of SEIU Local 26, talked about losing a co-worker to COVID and the urgent need for action to protect Minnesotans.
“Throughout this pandemic essential workers have risked our health and safety to keep our state running. My Union, SEIU Local 26, has seen four members die and over 650 members dealing with COVID. One of the deaths was my co-worker and friend Lorenzo Palma. We are tired of being treated like numbers instead of people,” said Starkweather. “Our coworkers are like family, and when essential workers like us get exposed to COVID, we shouldn’t be punished by having to use our paid time off, or worse, not getting any pay while we quarantine. Employers should already be paying emergency leave, but too many are not, so I am glad to see our legislature step up and try to support working families across Minnesota.” 
 
Laura Carpenter, a food service worker in the Minneapolis Public Schools and member of SEIU Local 284, spoke about how this bill would help school employees and families across the state. 
“Working families have been doing so much during this pandemic to keep each other and our state safe. As a school employee, I know we all want to be back at school as soon as we safely can, but right now the policies in place mean that people who do get COVID are forced to choose between doing the right thing and quarantining or keeping the paycheck they need to support their families,” said Carpenter. “Minnesotans have stepped up during this pandemic and I’m glad to hear that our legislators are working to pass laws to support essential workers. This bill is common sense and I hope it is passed immediately with overwhelming support.”
SEIU members plan to push their elected officials to take action and pass this bill as soon as possible to provide much-needed support for essential workers across the state.
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SEIU Essential Workers Celebrate Massive Voter Engagement and Victories of Joe Biden and Pro-Worker Candidates in Minnesota

Members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Minnesota State Council, bringing together over 60,000 Minnesotans across race and place, celebrated a massive voter engagement effort and the election wins of pro-worker candidates up and down the ticket. 

President Biden (SQ)In Minnesota SEIU reached out to over 1.24 million voters and had over 105,000 contacts during the election season. Across the country,  SEIU members and partners have made more than 33 million phone calls, sent 58 million texts and knocked on 1 million doors of infrequent voters across battleground states.

The heart and soul of SEIU’s infrequent voter engagement program are its Member Political Organizers (MPOs). These are everyday Americans who have put their lives on hold to do everything in their power to elect Joe Biden and champions up and down the ticket for healthcare, the right to join a union, and racial and economic justice. 

One MPO was Laura Carpenter, who is a food service worker in the Minneapolis Public Schools and a member of SEIU Local 284, who celebrated the work done and pushed elected officials to count every vote. 

“SEIU members are essential workers of every race and background across Minnesota. We keep America fed, clean, safe, and healthy, and this election season we showed that our votes are as essential as our jobs. Now that we’ve voted in record numbers, it’s time to make sure to count every vote,” said Carpenter. “I’m proud of the work so many of us did reaching out to Minnesotans, especially voters who may not always be part of the election process, to help elect candidates who will work with us to build a multi-racial democracy where every family can thrive.”

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Another member who worked tirelessly during the election season was Shari Lackey, a home care worker and member of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota. 

“Essential workers have experienced President Trump’s failure of leadership firsthand. Home care workers have seen the harm that this failed administration caused to healthcare workers and the people we care for every day. Our votes have been cast and now we need to count every vote,” said Lackey. “The health and safety of our families is just one of the reasons why we worked so hard to make sure we had leaders like Joe Biden and Kamala Harris, Tina Smith and Angie Craig in Washington D.C. I’m proud of the countless hours we worked to make sure we have people in office who will work with us to get our state and country back on track.” 

Abdi Haybe is a security officer and member of Local 26, and did electoral organizing in Minnesota’s growing East African community, and shared the power of turning out votes this election season. 

“In Minnesota, as was the case across the country, a handful of politicians hoped that by sowing chaos and stoking fear, they could bully and cheat their way through this election, but our solidarity and unity proved stronger than their attempts to divide us. Now it is time to count all of our votes. Because of the work done by regular Minnesotans, we turned out in record numbers, especially workers in communities of color who don’t always vote, “said Haybe. “Essential workers of different backgrounds voted for a $15 minimum wage and good union jobs to provide for our families. We voted for healthcare and long term care that everyone can afford. We voted to end police violence in Black communities and for investments in proven solutions to reimagine public safety.”

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Workers Celebrate as MSP Airport Passes $15 Minimum Wage

MSP Airport workers celebrated the passage of a $15 minimum wage by the Metropolitan Airports Commission. The Commissioners voted unanimously to pass the policy, which will see a first increase on January 1st, 2021 with workers reaching $15 on July 1st, 2022, the same time as the Minneapolis minimum wage. Workers have been pushing for a wage increase for years and thousands of workers, mostly immigrants and people of color, will see their wages increase dramatically over the next 2 years. Many currently make just $11 per hour, the current airport minimum wage.

VICTORY! (1)Glen Brown, a father, wheelchair agent at MSP for over five years and member of SEIU Local 26 who currently makes $11, spoke at a press conference ahead of the vote with other airport workers and airport commissioners.

“After years of fighting, after rallies, protests, meetings, hearings and more, today we have a vote to raise the minimum wage at the MSP Airport to $15 per hour. This is an important step towards making sure this wonderful airport, which has won so many awards, is a place where everyone who helps make it run is treated with the respect we deserve,” said Brown. “This has been a hard year. COVID has changed our world and taken so many people. George Floyd was murdered not far from here. We all are dealing with the uncertainty of what comes next. But today I’m glad to say we have some good news. When we talk about people finally getting the respect we’ve always deserved but too often not gotten, it’s important to note that most of the people making the lowest wages here at MSP are people of color. Today’s vote will increase the economic security for thousands of people, but it is also a step towards fixing our state’s racial disparities.”

Steps to $15 in Proposal

$13.25 January 1, 2021

$14.25 July 1, 2021

$15.00 July 1, 2022

Annual Cost of Living Adjustments Every January 1 thereafter

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Minnesota Home Care Workers & Clients Praise Minnesota Senate Passing Emergency Rate Increase for Critical Care Work

Following rallies Saturday in the streets and Wednesday in front of the Capitol, care workers and clients one step closer to getting long-overdue COVID-19 emergency funding for this critical work 

85926Home care workers and clients with SEIU Healthcare Minnesota celebrated the Minnesota Senate joining the Minnesota House in passing the emergency wage and benefit increase in the omnibus special session bill Thursday by an overwhelming bipartisan majority. The rate increase, when signed by the Governor, will be available to help support the workers who have been on the front lines of caring for tens of thousands of Minnesota seniors and people with disabilities through over seven months of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Home care workers, who are almost all women like me, and many of whom are women of color, have stepped up throughout this pandemic, working to keep seniors and people with disabilities living safely in their homes and with their families. We’ve put our lives on hold to ensure we are being safe for those we care for, but we haven’t gotten any support at all for this critical, life-saving work. By passing this emergency rate increase, and doing so on a strongly bipartisan basis, the Senate joins the House in taking an important step to finally showing that our elected officials value and appreciate the work we have been doing every day during this pandemic,” said Robin Pikala, a home care worker and member-leader with SEIU Healthcare Minnesota from Fridley. 

“But this temporary support during the peacetime emergency is just a stopgap. We have so much work left to do as a state to fix the care crisis that has been hurting workers and clients for many years even before the pandemic, by finally providing a living wage and real benefits and professional standards to this critical workforce,” Pikala continued. “We are looking forward to addressing those long-term challenges and injustices in the contract negotiations we’ll be starting with the state of Minnesota in just a couple weeks. But for today, with these votes, I’m glad to feel like our work, which has been praised by everyone as essential, is finally getting some real, needed support as we work on the frontlines of this pandemic.”

The Senate vote comes just days after care workers and the seniors and people with disabilities they care for shut down the road outside the Capitol to showcase the urgency of needing support for this critical work during COVID-19. A delegation also rallied outside the Capitol Wednesday when the House was in session, to make sure elected officials didn’t leave behind this essential workforce. 

Because of years of underfunding, thousands of Minnesotans are currently struggling to find quality care they need. Home care workers make as little as $13.25 per hour, with few benefits despite the critical nature of their work. The temporary rate increase for home care workers that was approved by the House as part of the bonding bill, when signed into law by Governor Walz, would be a huge boost to Minnesotans all across the state. 

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