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:
“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.
SEIU Healthcare Minnesota represents over 40,000 healthcare and long term care workers in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and home care across Minnesota