Contract will go into effect on July 1st for 27,000 home care workers across the state, improving the lives of workers and the people they serve
St. Paul, MN – With the Governor’s signing of the Omnibus Health and Human Services bill today, leaders from SEIU Healthcare Minnesota celebrated the legislative passage of their historic first home care contract. The contract, the first new union contract with the state of Minnesota in decades, had bipartisan support in the Legislature, including stand-alone bill authors Sandy Pappas (SF1274), Rod Hamilton (HF2035), and Denny McNamara (HF1298). The contract will go into effect on July 1st and covers approximately 27,000 home care workers across the state. Key victories in the contract include workers receiving a paid time off benefit for the first time (five days of paid time off for full-time workers), raising the pay floor from $9 to $11 by 2016, a grievance and arbitration procedure to address wage theft, and a training fund to improve the quality of care they provide to people with disabilities and seniors. Workers championed the contract as a great step forward for both themselves and the people they serve.
Having paid time off is something the bargaining team fought for because it will help to decrease turnover and improve the health and safety of both worker and client. Christine Hale, a home care worker from Crosby, spoke about the importance of the paid time off portion of the contract for herself and her family:
“I’m so excited to get paid time off after working for all these years without it,” said Hale, a mother of three. “The last time I had a surgery I had to go back to work right away because I was the only provider for my family — and it was really hard.”
Another key part of the new contract is that workers will have a voice against wage theft, an issue that has caused countless workers to leave the field. Sadie Hawkins, a home care worker from White Bear Lake, is currently dealing with not being paid and spoke about how the Union contract will help workers in the future.
“The grievance process will give those of us who have gone through wage theft a clear way to get the pay we are due for the work we have done – without going to smalls claims or another unpredictable process,” said Hawkins. “I worked for Forest Lake home care and my agency failed to pay me for a month of my work, but I couldn’t stop working because my client needed support. Two months later and I’m still waiting on my money.”
It isn’t only the workers who see the benefits of improving the home care field. Nikki Villavicencio, a home care recipient, highlighted how this contract will be helpful for consumers who utilize home care services.
“This contract will mean a better life for workers, but also for families across the state like mine,” said Villavicencio, who lives in Maplewood with her husband and daughter. “My family will benefit from the increased stability that will come with a higher pay floor, paid time off, new training funds and the other benefits that this contract will provide the workers who care for us. Home care workers are crucial to making sure seniors and people with disabilities are able to stay in their homes, and I am glad this contract begins to recognize their value. This is an important step in our fight, so both workers and care recipients like my family can fully live the lives we choose.”
The contract appropriated $16.227 million over two years, and its economic impact will be double that because of Federal Medicaid matching, meaning a stronger industry for workers and for those receiving care. The contract raises the wage floor to $11 by 2016, something that will directly impact Minnesotans like home care worker Alberta McCurdy, a mother and grandmother from Minneapolis who has been a home care worker for many years. McCurdy stated that, “I currently make $9 an hour and this wage increase will help me pay my bills and pay my rent.”
After fighting for years to make their work “invisible no more,” home care workers won the right to vote whether to bargain collectively with the state during the 2013 legislative session. In August of 2014 they voted decisively to join SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, which will represent all workers in the bargaining unit, but has voluntary membership. They reached a tentative agreement with the state in January. Members ratified the agreement with over 95% support, and now that the legislature and governor have ratified it as well, it is an official contract between home care workers and the state of Minnesota.
SEIU Healthcare Minnesota unites more than 42,000 healthcare and long-term care workers in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and home care throughout the state of Minnesota. SEIU represents more than 57,000 members across Minnesota and is a powerful voice working to improve the lives of all Minnesotans.