We live in a country where hard work is supposed to be rewarded, but for thousands of home care workers in Minnesota, this has not necessarily been the case. However, after a successful lobby day and the introduction of legislation that would allow these workers the ability to seek union representation, a brighter future looms on the horizon.
Home care workers joined hundreds of working Minnesotans at the Capitol on February 20 as part of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the Minnesota School Employees Association (MSEA) Lobby Day.
Following individual meetings with legislators, workers gathered in the Rotunda for a rally headlined by Governor Dayton and legislative leaders including Represetative Patti Fritz, Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk, House Speaker Paul Thissen, Senator Tony Lourey, and Representative Ryan Winkler. “The right to organize should be a basic right,” said Representative Patti Fritz, who spoke first at the rally. “We should not be living paycheck to paycheck.”
Before the group of hundreds at the State Capitol, Rep. Thissen applauded Senator Chris Eaton and Representative Mike Nelson, co-authors of a bill that would give home care workers the right to form a union. Speaker Thissen:
“Our state is facing a looming workforce crisis in our public programs providing home care to seniors and people with disabilities. If we’re going to attract and retain enough workers, we should pay them a competitive wage. The work they do is invaluable and helps keep thousands of Minnesotans living independently in their homes, rather than expensive nursing homes and other institutions. Home care workers should have the right to form a union, just like anybody else, so they can improve the quality of care for our family, our friends and our neighbors.”
Darleen Henry, a 23-year-old home care worker from Rosemount, also spoke at Wednesday’s rally. Her mother suffered a series of strokes, and Henry cares for her so she can stay at home – Henry works three jobs at 70 hours a week, yet has no benefits.
“I could have easily suggested her going into a nursing home but I knew if I were in her shoes, leaving my own home before I needed to would be heartbreaking, let alone extremely expensive,” said Henry. “She did have to be in assisted living for two weeks after a surgery – she hated and complained the whole time. She had never been so miserable in her life.”
Don’t miss the media coverage following this week’s MSEA-SEIU lobby day. Check out all the headlines in one place here.
View photos from the Lobby Day on Facebook.