Political Action

Minnesota Nursing Home Workers Win Big

Louise Duffee speaking at rally for increased nursing home funding

Louise Duffee speaking at rally for increased nursing home funding

Despite an overall HHS Budget that cut over $300 million in healthcare spending, Minnesota nursing home workers won a historic new rate system that invests $138 million over the next two years. The average home will see an increase of a little over 20%, finally bringing reimbursement rates up to the cost of care after decades of underfunding. SEIU Healthcare Minnesota members at Cuyuna Regional Medical Center should see rates go up around 37%.

The new nursing home reimbursement system contains several features that reflect long-standing SEIU priorities.

  • Rates will reflect the actual cost/price of care and will go up automatically as cost/price goes up. No more will workers have to go to the legislature every two years to request a raise.
  • The upper limit on price and cost will be set by a single state-wide figure based on Metro area expenses. No more lower 2nd and 3rd tier rates for homes outside of the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area.
  • Automatic Nursing Home rate increases budgeted as costs go up.
  • For homes with collective bargaining agreements, past expenses will not be eligible for increased funding without union agreement. We preserved the voice of workers in spending decisions.

For years, SEIU nursing home workers like Louise Duffee, union steward at Texas Terrace nursing home have be testifying at legislative hearings, attending Lobby Day, donating to COPE and volunteering for legislative candidates. All of the hard work had paid off with a historic victory.

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SEIU Member Story Leads To New Law

MVR

Monroe Von Ruden

Medical Debt Law Passes Unanimously

Monroe Von Ruden is a steward at Allina St. Francis Hospital in Shakopee, and, like too many Minnesotans, she has had a bad experience with medical debt. But, because she was a member of SEIU, Monroe was able to help pass a law to fix it.

Monroe’s daughter was born with serious kidney issues and required seven months of intensive hospital visits. Even with good health insurance, Monroe quickly ran up over $5,000 in medical bills. Eventually, her wages were garnished $250 ­ $300 per pay period. After SEIU staff alerted her to Allina’s charity care policy, Partner’s Care, Monroe applied and found out that she qualified. To their credit, Allina did the right thing. They cancelled her debt and refunded her lost wages.

New IRS regulations for non-profit hospitals will help prevent situations like this from happening in the future. Under the new rules, non-profit hospitals are required to provide patients with written information on their charity care policy before they start “extraordinary collection actions” like wage garnishments. IRS regulations, however, don’t provide any remedy for individual consumers if hospitals violate the rules.

Using Monroe’s story, SEIU supported a new medical debt bill, HF1647/SF1741, to provide a remedy. Under this bill, if a hospital violated the IRS regulations and started wage garnishments or other “extraordinary collection actions” without first providing a copy of their charity care policy, then a person could go to court and have a judge block collection activity until the hospital complied with the IRS regulations.

In April, the bill passed the Senate 56-0. On Tuesday, the bill passed the House 128-0. Yesterday, Governor Dayton completed Monroe’s journey and signed the bill into law. Said Monroe, “I knew being in a union meant having a political voice, but I never thought I would see my story turn into a real law.”

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SEIU Members Joined by Elected Officials at 2015 Lobby Day

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.

Rep. Denny McNamara speaks to SEIU members on MN Capitol steps.

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.

 

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SEIU HCMN Member Brenda Schwartz feature in Working Families Fund Radio Ad for State Rep Patti Fritz

Check out SEIU Healthcare Minnesota member Brenda Schwartz from St. Lucas Care Center in this radio ad from the Working Families Fund . Brenda talks as a nursing home worker about why we need to re-elect State Representative Patti Fritz.

This post is an independent expenditure in support of Patti Fritz for State Representative by SEIU Healthcare Minnesota PAC. It is not approved by any candidate.

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Workers Praise Senate Passage of Women’s Economic Security Act

Saint Paul, Minn ­– SEIU members praised the Minnesota Senate’s passage of the Women’s Economic Security Act Wednesday, highlighting the positive benefits for women and all working families in Minnesota. A majority of SEIU members in the state of Minnesota are women, and workers recognized this bill as an important step, highlighting work to close the gender pay gap, protect women from discrimination in the workplace, and help improve retirement security for workers across our state.

“Through my work with students and families in our public schools, I know that giving women a fair shot in the workplace can help strengthen working families in our state. I am glad to see the Minnesota Senate taking a step to address this today by passing the Women’s Economic Security Act,” said Valerie Rolstad, a member of SEIU Local 284 who lives in Fridley. “Things like equal pay, protection from discrimination, and a chance for retirement security should not be things women have to struggle to achieve.”

“Women in the healthcare field know the work we do should be treated equally, and we’ve fought through our union for many of these same measures. I am glad to see the Women’s Economic Security Bill passed to begin the process to level the playing field for women­ and all workers ­ in Minnesota,” said Crissy Hanson, a Scrub Tech from Brainerd and a member of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota. “When women in Minnesota are given a fair shot, it will help to rebuild a strong middle class where all Minnesota families can succeed.”

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SEIU is the workers who provide care and support for your family in hospitals, nursing homes, their own homes, schools, 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 approximately 30,000 SEIU members 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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SEIU Members Praise Legislative Agreement On Minimum Wage

Applaud inclusion of indexing so working families in Minnesota can catch up and keep up

SAINT PAUL, MN – After legislators announced a deal this morning on increasing the Minnesota minimum wage to $9.50 and indexing it to inflation, SEIU members praised the move as a great step in helping working families in our state. Members thanked legislative champions of this effort and expressed hope that this would be just one step in our fight to increase the economic stability for all workers in Minnesota.

“SEIU members in the healthcare field have seen the damaging effects that poverty wages have on families in our state, which is why we are excited for the agreement reached earlier today to raise the Minnesota minimum wage and index it to inflation,” said Jamie Gulley, President of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota.  “Recent studies have shown the negative health impacts of low wages, a fact SEIU Healthcare members know all too well. Our members understand that raising the wage, and indexing it to inflation so it doesn’t lose purchasing power, will improve the lives of working families in Minnesota  who have been left behind for far too long. ”

“SEIU members want to acknowledge the people-powered Raise The Wage coalition of faith, labor, and community groups who worked so hard to make this increase happen. We also thank the authors and conference committee lead negotiators, Representative Ryan Winker and Senator Chris Eaton, for their efforts to put Minnesota workers first. Their work to ensure the economic dignity of all families in our state was noticed and appreciated by the members of SEIU,” said Javier Morillo, President of SEIU Local 26. “The coalition, along with legislative champions, worked tirelessly so Minnesota workers at or near minimum wage finally have a chance to not only catch up, but keep up, guaranteeing they won’t have to fear that their wage will lose value each year.”

“Our members in publics schools around the state know that the 137,000 children whose parents will see a raise because of this legislation will have a better chance to flourish because of this bill,” said Carol Nieters, Executive Director of SEIU Local 284. “Our members know that fair wages and good benefits bring stability to families, and this victory can and should be a rallying point for a continued focus on improving the lives of working families across the state.”

The SEIU Minnesota State Council, representing the four SEIU Locals in the state, was a part of the Raise the Wage coalition, which brought together community, faith, labor, non-profit and service-based organizations in the fight to increase the state’s minimum wage.

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Senate Vote Upholds Rights of Working Families

Home care workers celebrate following record-setting debate on bill to grant collective bargaining rights

St. Paul, MN – After 11 committees and a record-setting 17-hour debate on the Senate floor, home care workers are celebrating a win after the Senate voted 35 – 32 to pass a bill that would extend collective bargaining rights to workers in self-directed public home care programs.

“I am so excited to see the Senate pass such an important bill to my family and me,” said Darleen Henry, a 23-year-old home care worker from Rosemount who cares for her mom. “Republicans stalled all night, but I’m happy the Senate ultimately granted me the same rights enjoyed by other workers to simply choose whether or not we want to join together in a union.”

Ziggy Norberg and his mom, Karen Urman, joined Henry in celebration. Norgerg was born with Spina Bifida. At 19, he now attends community college and is a leader in his community, something he says is possible because of his mom, who works for him as his PCA (personal care attendant).

“I am so fortunate to have my mom, because there are fewer and fewer people entering this field due to low wages and a lack of benefits,” said Norberg. “My mom shouldn’t have to struggle to get by because she is a home care worker. It would be nice if along with the hard, round-the-clock work of being a home care worker, my mom could enjoy the benefits and fair wages of a real career.”

Urman assists Norberg with daily tasks that allow him to live independently, rather than in a group home or other institution. The mother-son duo have been a constant presence in the Capitol since February, when lawmakers introduced a bill that would grant collective bargaining rights to self-directed home care workers in public programs. Unlike workers employed by agencies, these workers employed directly by their clients do not currently have the right to join a union under state law, even though the state provides the funding and sets reimbursement rates that determine the workers’ wages. If passed, the bill would allow the workers to call for an election to decide if they would like to join together to collectively bargain with the state for better wages, benefits and standards.

“This bill will strengthen the self-direction model that is so vital to these programs,” said Norberg. “It will also make sure that we can attract the best people to the profession. Home care workers like my Mom should have the same rights as others to join a union and a have a voice in their career. Their work saves the state and taxpayers millions each year – without these workers, the state would have to foot the bill for thousands of people entering nursing homes and institutions.”

Urman, Norberg and Henry were among the sea of purple that awaited the Senate vote which began Tuesday afternoon. By morning, purple still dotted the seats of the gallery.

If passed, the bill would allow Minnesota to follow in footsteps of several other states which have passed similar legislation. Those states have seen a reduction in worker turnover and a stabilization of the workforce. Workers and participants there have also seen an increased access to services, better wages and benefits, the creation of registry and referral services, greater access to training and a voice on the job.

“We just want the same rights as other workers,” said Urman. “Nurses and teachers have the right to form a union. The work we do isn’t more important, but it certainly isn’t less important. We should have the same right to choose for ourselves if we want to join together in a union.”

The bill would extend organizing rights to roughly 12,000 self-directed home care workers in Minnesota.

“When the day finally comes that I might need to find someone else, I want to rest assured that I will be able to find someone who takes the job seriously like my mom does,” said Norberg.

The House is expected to take up the Senate version of the bill later this week. The Governor is expected to sign the bill as well.
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SEIU Healthcare Minnesota unites more than 15,000 healthcare and long-term care workers in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and home care throughout the state of Minnesota. SEIU represents more than 30,000 members across Minnesota and is a powerful voice working to improve the lives of all Minnesotans.

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Marriage: Extend the freedom to same-sex couples

By Shar Knutson, Jamie Gulley and Eliot Seide

As leaders in our state’s labor movement, we believe in a fair Minnesota, a Minnesota that values love, commitment and responsibility. Every day, hard working Minnesotans strive to build a state that is inclusive and prosperous for all, with no exceptions.
And, the truth is, that Minnesota already exists. It exists in the working families across our state who endeavor to do well by their neighbors and provide for each other. It exists in the hearts and minds of Iron Rangers and in the homes of those who live and work in the plains of southern Minnesota. It exists in the small-business owners and workers in Moorhead and Winona, the neighborhoods of Woodbury and Brainerd and the bustling streets of Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Each and every day, Minnesotans prove that this place exists. Consider the father, already late for work, who stops to help shovel his neighbor out after a heavy snowstorm. Think about the star high-school quarterback who speaks up when one of his classmates is being bullied or of the child who donates her last quarter to charity during the holiday season.
There is something truly special about this great state we all call home. We look out for each other and live out the idea of the Golden Rule in our daily lives. We don’t turn our backs on family, or tell some of our brothers and sisters that they aren’t good enough or as worthy as anyone else.
Unfortunately, our government doesn’t always reflect the values we all so deeply cherish. And our core Minnesota values of fairness, freedom and family aren’t always represented in the bills our legislators discuss at the State Capitol.
This year, however, we have the chance to right a wrong that has been state law for too long. Simply because of who they are, same-sex couples and their families are currently excluded from marriage. As leaders of some of Minnesota’s largest labor organizations, we’re proud to join union members across the state who are standing in solidarity with our LGBT brothers and sisters who ask for nothing more than to be treated the same as anyone else.
These families live and work right here in Minnesota. They are union members, small business owners, and residents of towns small and large. They are our sisters and brothers, our children and family members, and our friends. They raise children, work hard, contribute to our communities, and pay their taxes — and they deserve to be treated fairly and have the same freedoms as any other Minnesotan.
Now is the time. This is the year. As a state, we’ve spent years talking about why marriage matters so much. We’ve shared our own personal stories, and asked our neighbors and friends to share theirs. We’ve cried, we’ve laughed, and we’ve learned. And we’ve affirmed what we already knew to be true: Marriage is about the love, commitment and responsibility that two people share.
Marriage is a unique bond between two people to which nothing else compares. And this year, we have the chance to strengthen thousands of families by extending the freedom to marry to same-sex couples.
As union members, we’re proud to stand with the majority of Minnesotans who are calling on our lawmakers to do the right thing this year by making sure that same-sex couples can finally wed in the state they call home. Extending the freedom to marry to same-sex couples is the fair thing to do. It’s the Minnesotan thing to do and, most importantly, it’s the right thing to do.
For the future of our state and all of the families who live and work here, we urge the members of the Minnesota Legislature to vote yes on S.F. 925 and H.F. 1054 when it comes before them for a vote in the coming weeks.
Marriage is a unique bond between two people to which nothing else compares. And this year, we have the chance to strengthen thousands of families by extending the freedom to marry to same-sex couples.

 

By Shar Knutson, Jamie Gulley and Eliot Seide

Shar Knutson is president of the Minnesota AFL-CIO, Jamie Gulley is president of SEIU Minnesota State Council and Eliot Seide is executive director of AFSCME Council 5.

Posted:   05/07/2013 12:01:00 AM CDT
http://www.twincities.com/opinion/ci_23193484/knutson-gulley-seide-marriage-extend-freedom-same-sex

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Rep. Walz’s Votes Against FAA Bill, Calls For Balanced, Long-Term Plan

Washington, DC – On April 26th, Congressman Walz released the below statement following his vote on legislation to exempt the FAA from sequestration:

“While I firmly stand with air traffic controllers and those FAA employees who make our travel safe and efficient and with Minnesotans who depend on them for business and travel, I also stand with teachers, soldiers, seniors and children who are also being negatively impacted by sequestration. I could not in good conscience support one fix that only addresses some of the problem and ignores the needs of so many other Minnesotans. We need a balanced, long-term plan to fix sequestration and tackle our debt and I remain committed to working with anyone, in either party, to get it done.”

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SEIU Applauds U.S. Senate Immigration Bill

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE    photo
April 17, 2013
Contact: Kate Brickman, Media Relations Coordinator

Labor leaders welcome commonsense immigration reform and pathway to citizenship, detail areas of concern as bill heads to Judiciary Committee

St. Paul, MN – Today members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) of Minnesota celebrated the long-awaited immigration bill introduced at the U.S. Senate.

“We applaud the bipartisan Senate committee for their tireless work in negotiating and drafting commonsense immigration reform legislation which includes a pathway to citizenship,” said Javier Morillo, President of SEIU Local 26.” The majority of Americans believe immigration is good for our country but say the current system is just not working. Our country needs a commonsense process now for new American immigrants to become citizens.”

The bill – which was delayed this week due to the Boston Marathon bombings – was introduced this morning in Washington D.C. Leaders who worked on the bill are expected to hold a press conference tomorrow in D.C. to discuss the bill. Discussion in the Senate Judiciary committee could begin as early as Friday. Senators Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar both sit on that committee.

“This bill is a good starting point, and we look forward to working with Senators Franken and Klobuchar on improving it,” said Jigme Ugen, executive vice president of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota. “We thank Senators Franken and Klobuchar for their support and urge them to be vocal leaders on an issue that impacts all Minnesotans, regardless of immigration status.”

SEIU will work with local business, faith and immigrant communities to address some concerns with the bill, including the length of the citizenship pathway, along with restrictions and a cut-off date that would leave hundreds of thousands out of the process.

“A pathway that lasts 13 years unreasonable and unjust,” said Carol Nieters, Executive Director of SEIU Local 284. “It should be substantially shortened so all aspiring immigrants have a chance to become a full part of the American dream in a reasonable amount of time. We must expand the number of people eligible for the path to citizenship. The cut-off date and other restrictions including family classifications will tear apart hundreds of thousands of families.”

“Immigration reform must seek to keep families together,” said Morillo. “And that includes LGBT families. The current bill provides no recognition of LGBT families. Our nation was founded upon the very powerful idea that in this land, all people have rights. No matter what you look like, where you come from or who you love – everyone should get a fair shot at life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

SEIU has been a leader in the immigration debate for years and Minnesota’s lavender caucus has been influential in issues surrounding LGBT families, including the effort to pass bills granting the freedom to marry in Minnesota.

“These Minnesotans – just as all new American immigrants – contribute to our communities, our society and our economy,” said Ugen. “As an immigrant myself, I came to America to pursue a better life and the opportunity America promises. We must act now to bring the 11 million aspiring citizens out of the shadows.”

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SEIU is the workers who provide care and support for your family in hospitals, nursing homes, schools, child care, 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 approximately 30,000 SEIU members 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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