Over 120 SEIU Healthcare Minnesota members joined other SEIU members from around Minnesota on Wednesday, March 4 for our 2015 Lobby Day. This year was a special milestone for our Union because Home Care Workers attended for the first time as SEIU HCMN members after winning the largest union election in state history last year.
After an issue training in the morning, members spent the afternoon at the Capitol meeting with our individual state legislators to discuss laws and funding important to us as healthcare workers. To cap off the day, members and elected officials held an event on the Capitol steps to call out a few of our top priorities as SEIU members in Minnesota.
Standing alongside Senator Tony Lourey and Representative Denny McNamara, home care worker Rosemary Van Vickle from Crosby called for the funding and ratification of our first home care workers’ union contract.
“When we have things like paid time off, training and a voice on the job, it will stabilize our lives, and will mean more constant care for the thousands of seniors and people with disabilities who receive support from a home care worker,” stated Van Vickle, a member of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota.
Mike Poke, a custodian in the Wayzata Schools, was joined by Senator John Hoffman to talk about the need for real funding in our schools.
“All students deserve to be given the chance to succeed. That means real funding, so students can have breakfast before class. So our youngest learners have the same chance to prepare for kindergarten. So we don’t have schools that are falling apart around our students, distracting them from learning,” said Poke, who is a father of two and a member of SEIU Local 284.
Other issues highlighted include increasing funding for nursing homes, supporting the Working Parents Act, voting rights restoration and drivers license for all. On the last issue, Ana Vasquez shared a personal story about how not being able to access a license made for an unsafe situation that was incredibly challenging for her family.
“I know the pain of not being able to have a drivers license, and the stress and damage it causes to the families. It caused my family to miss important activities like doctors appointments for the kids and my husband and I struggled to make it to work. It was stressful on my entire family,” said Vasquez, a member of SEIU Local 26. “Without access to licenses, we are risking the safety of our roads and harming families who simply want to get to and from work and take care of our children.”
Home Care Worker and new Executive Board member Deb Howze was our emcee for the morning program with over 225 SEIU members. Home Care Workers have negotiated a first contract with the State of Minnesota that includes 5 days of Paid Time Off per year for full-time workers, and a new $11.00 minimum wage. The legislature still needs to ratify the contract and approve $16 million to fund it.
Louise Duffee from Texas Terrace nursing home trained members on how to engage our state legislators about nursing home funding. Our union is supporting a bi-partisan proposal this year to completely restructure nursing home reimbursements based on actual costs. It would add over $190 million in new funds, with an average 24% increase, and provide for automatic funding increases as costs go up.