Political Action

A balanced budget; a fair budget

Originally posted on Winona Daily News

Every two years our state becomes embroiled in a bitter debate over the state budget. While there are a variety of plans on the table, it’s important to remember what Minnesotans want. Poll after poll shows that Minnesotans want a balanced approach that restores investments in the right priorities.

As champions of working people, we stand with the majority of Minnesotans who want a fair and balanced budget after decades of a broken system.

Over the past several years, special interests have rigged the tax code to favor elite corporations and the wealthy, while middle class families have shouldered more of the burden. We believe the governor’s budget eliminates tax breaks, closes loopholes for out-of-state corporations and ensures small businesses and the middle class don’t pay more taxes than profitable corporations.

The response from the state’s business community to the governor’s plan was disappointing. The state legislature has been giving tax breaks to big corporations while taking money out of the classroom and cutting critical services for seniors. As soon as business leaders faced the prospect of paying their fair share, they cried out.

But what do Minnesotans want?

Nearly 80 percent of Minnesotans believe we should close tax havens that operate overseas to avoid paying taxes. And almost 60 percent believe we should raise the income tax on the top two percent of Minnesotans.

The vast majority of Minnesotans support a reformed budget plan that puts the priorities back where they should be – growing the economy, educating children and caring for seniors. A balanced budget allows our state to make the crucial investments in education and care for our seniors.

A balanced budget also helps rebuild the middle class. With an increased minimum wage, families can take steps to reinvest in their communities. We support a new state minimum wage of $9.95. When we don’t allow people who work for a living to make a living, we force these workers onto publicly-subsidized programs.

Simply put – when the rich don’t pay their fair share, we all end up paying more.

A fair budget can help reverse the irresponsible cuts to education that have increased class sizes to among the highest in the country and made it much harder for middle class students to afford college. Our children have been forced to make sacrifices for years. Investments in education are critical to helping our state move forward.

When inflation is accounted for, per pupil funding has decreased by $2,199 over the last 10 years. Additionally, the stable revenue source for schools was repealed in 2001. Together, this means that schools are not getting the adequate funding they need and they do not know where the funding for the next two years will be coming from. This has led to an unprecedented increase in reliance on local levies to keep school doors open five days a week.

Minnesota’s schools and kids need new revenue, which is present in all budget proposals put forward this session. They also need a stable, equal funding source, which is available in bringing back the General Education Levy. Together, these changes will create a strong foundation for education in Minnesota to move forward.

One of the most concerning parts of this current discussion is the proposed cuts to Health and Human Services. The elderly and those living with disabilities have been used as political pawns year after year after year. While the population ages, programs for the elderly continue to be cut. Funding for nursing homes, healthcare professionals and home care programs have been slashed to extreme levels. We oppose the proposed cuts to health and human services.

Rather, we need investments in long-term care. We need to invest in workers through better wages and benefits to improve the quality of care for our seniors. A bill that would grant collective bargaining rights to home care workers would help stabilize the workforce and help us address the looming workforce crisis. We are all concerned about providing care and dignity to our seniors, and investing in better care now will help keep seniors out of nursing homes and save the state money down the road.

With a renewed emphasis on our state’s priorities like education, jobs and care for our seniors, Minnesota will be able to strengthen the state’s economy, restore fairness and invest in a brighter future.

Jamie Gulley is president of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota

Carol Nieters is executive director of SEIU Local 284

Javier Morillo is president of SEIU Local 26

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Healthcare Workers Celebrate Victory as Historic Health Insurance Bill Signed Into Law

More than 300,000 uninsured Minnesotans will benefit from affordable, quality health care.

exchange_signing

Governor Dayton Signing the Bill

After a record-breaking debate in the Minnesota legislature, healthcare workers across the state are celebrating a milestone today in their effort to provide quality care to Minnesotans. Governor Dayton signed the Minnesota Health Insurance Exchange into law today, which will bring better healthcare coverage to 1.3 million Minnesotans, while saving Minnesotans more than $1 billion. In response to today’s signing, SEIU Healthcare Minnesota President Jamie Gulley issued the following statement:

“Today is a victory for all who share a goal of giving Minnesotans more affordable access to quality health care coverage. For the first time, Minnesotans will have a marketplace where insurance companies will compete for their business in an open and transparent way. While many have dealt with the frustrations of fine print and insurance jargon, the exchange will allow Minnesotans to easily compare health plans side-by-side and empower them to select the plan that best fits their needs and budget.

“By 2016, nearly 1.3 million Minnesotans will use the Exchange to access quality, affordable insurance. Of those, more than 300,000 are uninsured Minnesotans who would previously risk being turned away at hospitals and clinics. It is an incredible achievement to provide these Minnesotans with the peace of mind of knowing every plan offered through the Exchange will cover a comprehensive set of benefits like emergency room visits, prescriptions, mental health, and preventive care like cancer screenings and immunizations.

“Even more incredible is that this comprehensive coverage will be more affordable. Minnesotans are expected to save $1 billion by 2016. That’s $500 for the average family each year. In an economy where it seems costs continue to rise, the ability to provide affordable coverage to families is key to keeping Minnesotans healthy.

“We know there is much work yet to be done. I am proud of the active role our members at SEIU Healthcare have played during this process and look forward to continued input to ensure the best of interests of Minnesotans are at the heart of this program.”

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Healthcare Workers Celebrate Victory as House Votes to Approve Historic Health Insurance Exchange Bill

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 15, 2013
Contact: Kate Brickman, SEIU Media Relations Coordinator
Phone Number: 612-460-1219

Healthcare Workers Celebrate Victory as House Votes to Approve Historic Health Insurance Exchange Bill
Bill will ensure exchange has smart purchasing power to serve the interests of more than 1.3 million Minnesotans who will benefit from affordable, quality health care

SAINT PAUL, MN – Healthcare workers across the state are celebrating a victory today after a 72-61 vote on the House floor last night to approve a bill which will provide affordable, quality health care to more than 1.3 million Minnesotans through a health insurance exchange. The exchange will allow more than 300,000 currently uninsured individuals to gain healthcare coverage.

“We are happy to see the smart purchaser language was protected during the conference committee and in last night’s vote,” said Jamie Gulley, President of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota. “Without this ability, the exchange would merely serve the interests of insurance companies, rubber-stamping any plan regardless of quality or affordability. While it will take a year to implement, the state will eventually be able to negotiate with insurers for the best plans, those that are higher quality and more affordable.”

“Not only does this promote the best plans for Minnesotans, the smart purchaser promotes accountability to Minnesota taxpayers,” said Elsie Urman, a member of SEIU Healthcare. “We are thrilled to see this bill pass – it will reduce the number of people we see who need care, yet have no coverage. I can’t tell you how it breaks my heart to turn away sick patients simply because they lost their private insurance. This bill is a major step forward in solving this problem.”

The bill allows Minnesota to capitalize on funding opportunities from the federal government as provided by the Affordable Care Act. The bill has been through hundreds of hours of debate and faced attempt after attempt to weaken it. Healthcare workers have been waiting more than two years for legislators to act.

“By the next election in November 2014, more than a million Minnesotans will have acquired their healthcare through the Minnesota exchange,” said Rick Varco, SEIU Healthcare Political Director. “When they go to the polls, they should remember who voted to deny them that coverage.”

SEIU Healthcare Minnesota played an active role throughout the process as members of the Commerce Department Health Insurance Exchange Advisory Task Force.

“We thank the legislators who helped healthcare workers and Minnesotans secure this victory,” continued Gulley. “Their leadership in the face of tremendous pressure from the insurance companies and other special interests is appreciated.”

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SEIU Healthcare Minnesota unites more than 17,000 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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A Week of Legislative Milestones for Home Care Bill

LobbyDay_HCW_20130306_ktThe home care bill we’ve been advocating for to grant collective organizing rights to home care workers seeking to form a union is on its way!

On Tuesday, the bill (HF 844) successfully passed through the House Health and Human Services Policy committee with bipartisan support. On Wednesday the bill cleared the Senate State and Local Government committee, which was a continuation from Monday’s committee hearing, where Sen. Sandy Pappas moved to merge SF 665 with SF 778, a bill that would also grant organizing rights to in-home childcare providers.

Sen. Sandy Pappas says both bills will extend the Public Employment Labor Relations Act (PELRA) to cover the workers for purposes of collective bargaining with the state over wages and benefits.

Senator Chris Eaton, co-author of SF 665, strongly believes in the need for this bill to cover home care workers who work in self-directed programs whose wages and benefits are determined and funded by the state. “These workers should have the same right under state law as teachers, nurses, and firefighters to form a union and negotiate with the people who determine their wages and benefits,” said Eaton. “Doing so will help us attract and retain more workers, which is crucial given that the need for home care workers will continue to increase as the Baby Boomers age.” More after the break!

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Rep. Fritz and SEIU member Louise Duffee lead bi-partisan push to increase long term care funding

At a February 26th press conference, SEIU Exec Board member and MN State Representative Patti Fritz introduced a bill that would increase long term care funding and enable nursing home workers to receive a long-overdue raise. Backed by a bi-partisan group of legislators including SEIU-endorsed GOP State Rep. Jim Abeler, the bill would provide nursing home workers with their first real raise in over six years.

Bill HF 886/ SF 792 would:

  • Increase nursing home pay rates by 5% in October 2013, with a second wage increase of another 5% in October 2014.
  • All nursing homes will receive at least a 3% increase with an additional 1-2% based on their progress towards certain quality program goals.
  • For all rate increases, 73% or more must be dedicated towards new wages and benefits for front line caregivers.

SEIU Healthcare Minnesota member Louise Duffee, an RNA from Texas Terrace, spoke alongside Rep. Fritz at the hearing.  Duffee spoke about having a smaller paycheck than she did six years ago and the problem of short staffing in nursing homes across the state.  She shared about one night in particular she recalled on the job:

“Down one hall, I faced two flashing call lights and down the other hall, I saw eight more flashing call lights.  I was left to handle all ten lights by myself.”

Now Louise and Patti need your help. Contact your legislator and ask them to support HF 886/ SF 792. You can find you legislator and their contact info at www.gis.leg.mn/OpenLayers/districts.

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Working Families Breathe Sigh of Relief as HHS Breathes New Life into MinnesotaCare

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

February 6, 2013

ContactKate Brickman, SEIU Media Relations Coordinator, kbrickman@seiumn.org | 612-460-1219

SAINT PAUL, MN – Health care workers across Minnesota are breathing a sigh of relief today in response to the announcement by the federal Health and Human Services department that it has developed a timeline for Minnesota and other states who wish who pursue a Basic Health Plan (BHP) option in implementing of the Affordable Care Act. SEIU Healthcare MN, a union of more than 17,000 healthcare workers, released the following statement from SEIU Healthcare MN President Jamie Gulley.

“We are very relieved to see this announcement, which will allow Minnesota to preserve, expand, and improve the MinnesotaCare program through the “Basic Health Plan” (BHP) option created by the Affordable Care Act. Over 130,000 Minnesotans rely on MinnesotaCare each month for affordable, comprehensive health coverage. Without this action from HHS, the parents and children in working families who are enrolled in MinnesotaCare would have ended up underinsured starting in 2014.

“Even with tax credits available through the Health Insurance Exchange, many families would be unable to purchase adequate coverage. This federal guidance allows our state to keep MinnesotaCare and ensure working families have access to quality, affordable health care. Our members – the frontline caregivers in hospitals, clinics and nursing homes throughout the state – see all too often the struggles of working families without adequate coverage. They know that MinnesotaCare has been a lifeline for working people in this state for more than twenty years, and that an improved MinnesotaCare under the Affordable Care Act’s BHP option will remove waiting periods for coverage, eliminate the current in-patient hospital cap, and help thousands more hard-working Minnesotans to access quality coverage when they most need it.

“We are appreciative of Governor Mark Dayton and Commissioner Lucinda Jesson’s persistence in advocating for a continued, improved MinnesotaCare program. We are also grateful for the efforts of the federal delegation, especially Senators Franken and Klobuchar, for ensuring the interests of hard-working Minnesotans are put ahead of the interests of insurance companies. Finally, we would like to thank Senator Tony Lourey and Representative Erin Murphy for leading the charge for the Basic Health Plan here in Minnesota.”

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SEIU Healthcare Minnesota unites more than 17,000 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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Why The Time For Immigration Reform Is Now

My name is Mitch Azarcon and I am a proud member of SEIU Healthcare MN working at Rochester Methodist Hospital as a Surgical Core Tech.

Mitch speaking at a rally/press conference supporting immigration reform.

In 1990 my family and I emigrated here from the Philippines.  My mom knew that the United States is where she wanted to live and raise a family.  She applied to come here when she was single and updated all her paperwork when she got married, and after each of her 3 children.  I remember when we were growing up she always said “one day we will live in the United States.”  I was 20 when we finally came to the US; in total it took 25 years.

As President Obama said, “we are a nation of immigrants.”  We all do our part to contribute.  I am a surgical tech.  My brother is a nursing assistant.  My sister just graduated from college and started her first job.  Our country is better for having hardworking immigrants as contributing members of our communities.  Young people especially, like the DREAMERS, have a lot to contribute and we should give them the chance to fulfill their full potential.

America is my home and I am an active citizen.  That is why I was active as a member political organizer during this last election.  I knocked on doors, phone banked, passed out flyers, and did everything in my power to participate. SEIU helped elect leaders who will do the right thing for immigrants and this country.

That is why I am happy that President Obama and a bipartisan group of Congress are working on a comprehensive set of immigration reform.  We need commonsense immigration reform that does not take 25 years like it did for my mom and that allows young people to build a brighter future.

Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said that, “The time is always right to do what is right.”  The time for immigration reform is now.  I am ready now.  Our communities are ready now.  So we will start organizing for action now!

Mitch has been active in SEIU since October of 2011 when she participated in the Week of Action, coordinated and organized by Minnesotans For a Fair Economy. Since then, she has participated in rallies and protests, including volunteering for civil disobedience during the 99% Spring Week of Action on April 2012. In the same year, she organized SEIU members in the campaign to help defeat the marriage amendment and the Voter restriction amendment, and lead three member conversation trainings. Currently, she is organizing a Lavender Caucus for all MN SEIU locals.

 

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Hey Congress: Don’t cut services for the needy to line the pockets of the wealthy and greedy

Jobs-not-cuts-Rally.jpegDo you oppose cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and education in a “fiscal cliff” deal? Join us Dec. 10.

There aren’t many economic issues that a clear majority of Americans agree on. One very important thing we do, however: It’s time to raise income tax rates on the richest among us.

In the coming weeks, Congress will be making decisions on budget measures, services and tax increases known as the “fiscal cliff” that will have long-term effects on our economy.

In the little more than a month since the election passed, it’s already become clear that many conservatives in Congress are primed to hold the American economy hostage in order to safeguard tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans. Representatives like Reps. John Boehner and Eric Cantor are pushing for a budget deal that includes cuts to hospital and nursing home care that Medicare and Medicaid cover, as well as Social Security, education, child care and other programs that families count on.

Well, guess what? Working Americans are not going to take it. We elected our members of Congress to advocate and pass legislation that has our best interests at heart, not just the 1 percent.

“Jobs, NOT cuts” is the message thousands of unions members and activists will be bringing when they converge on their members of Congress’s offices all across the county on Dec. 10 to demand a commitment from her or him to protect vital services such as Medicare and Medicaid from cuts.

The Dec. 10 National Day of Action is about making sure the debate is not just about numbers, but about working families, seniors and children. Regular people want to make sure that their families’ economic interests and needs stay front and center in this debate, and they’re not going to stand by or let Republicans use blackmail as a bargaining strategy. President Obama is standing with us us and seems ready to call their bluff.

Be on the right side of the issue. Find an event to join in your area to take action this Dec 10.

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Victory for Minnesota’s Working Families

DFL Captures Both Houses, Voters Reject Regressive Amendments, Rep. Cravaack Defeated SEIU Members Play Critical Role in Electing Champions for Working People, Defeating Amendments

ST. PAUL, MN – For the last two years, Minnesotans have watched as Republican politicians in St. Paul shutdown the government to protect a tax break for big corporations, slashed millions of dollars from our public school system, and eliminated a tax credit for 95% of homeowners while voting to lower taxes on big corporations. But last night, in a broad rejection of Republicans’ divisive policies, Minnesotans elected pro-working family majorities to both houses of the state legislature. Echoing a common distaste for divisive politics, voters also rejected two constitutional amendments that promised to limit the freedom to marry and to disenfranchise thousands of voters. Tea Party stalwart Chip Cravaack, representing Minnesota’s eighth congressional district, was also defeated.

Final GOTV push: SEIU Minnesota members and volunteers make phone calls to residents from the SEIU MN State Council headquarters.

“Last night was a critical victory for working families across the state of Minnesota,” explained Jamie Gulley, President of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, which, along with three other SEIU locals, represent nearly 30,000 janitors, nurses, public school bus drivers, security guards and other workers across the state. “Voters sent a clear message: we expect that our leaders will stand up for the middle class, strengthen our public schools, broaden access to healthcare, and make sure that the wealthy pay their fair share – not for the interests of the ultra-wealthy, regardless of the cost to working Minnesotans.”

In the weeks and months leading up to the election, hundreds of SEIU members from across Minnesota had more than 245,000 conversations with voters at their doors and over the phone in key legislative districts. (more…)

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Protecting the Vote for Seniors, Students, Military and all Minnesotans

LaDonna Meinecke is fierce and she is fired up about protecting voting rights. Knowing that Minnesota’s proposed Voter Restriction Law would directly impact the people she serves, she volunteered to organize a fundraiser to help defeat it.

“I regularly treat seniors, the disabled and other adults including veterans who don’t drive and therefore do not have a drivers’ license.  It would pose significant obstacles for them in terms of cost and logistics to obtain mandatory government-issued voting identification. Frankly, some people can’t afford even a nominal fee, which is often their daily food allowance,” Ms. Meinecke said.

“Additionally, our counties and cities will have to bear very high costs to implement Voter I.D., possibly resulting in property tax hikes. Wouldn’t our citizens be better served if funds were used instead for our schools, health care, and other essential services?” she continued.

Minnesota’s controversial Amendment 2, if passed, would eliminate mail-in and absentee ballots used by more than 250,000 voters—many from nursing homes or military bases overseas—and end same-day voter registration used by more than 500,000 Minnesotans.

“This is a Republican ploy to keep certain people from voting. Period. It is not based on legitimate concerns regarding voter integrity,” Ms. Meinecke said. “This is a poll tax that puts barriers between those who are already disadvantaged and their right to a ballot —just because they vote a certain way.  It is the right-wingers desperate attempt to cling to the political status quo.

Ms. Meinecke’s efforts raised more than $2,000 in a short time frame for Our Vote Our Future, the statewide campaign to defeat the Voter Restriction Law.

There’s still time to volunteer. Join LaDonna who will be phone banking this Saturday to protect Minnesota’s election system, nationally recognized as one of the best with having the highest voter turnout. Register to help get out the vote here: http://www.ourvoteourfuture.org/get-out-the-vote/

LaDonna Meinecke is a member of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota. She works as a Behavioral Health Psychotherapist at HealthPartners West Clinic in St. Louis Park, Minnesota.

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