Press Releases

Hundreds of Workers Go On Strike at St. Paul Laundry Facility for Hospital Linens

Worker’s United Linen Co-op Workers hit the picket line in a strike over unfair labor practices

St. Paul, Minn. — Just moments ago, more than 240 members of Worker’s United Local 150 walked off the job from Health Systems Cooperative Laundries to walk the picket line in a strike over unfair labor practices, which include the company’s unilateral discontinuation of sick-day benefits. Workers poured out of the building starting at 1:00 p.m. today, completely shutting down operations at the commercial laundry facility.

Union members nearly unanimously voted down the company’s “last, best and final offer” on July 26th. Since then, Worker’s United – along with other labor organizations such as SEIU Healthcare Minnesota and area labor federations and councils – have been urging hospitals, clinics, doctors and the Board of Directors that oversees the operation of the laundry to restore the benefits and drop oppressive and unnecessary demands.

Negotiations resumed between the Union and the Laundry this morning at the offices of Federal Mediation and Conciliation Services in Minneapolis, but at this point have been unsuccessful. Local 150 Union members at the St. Paul laundry are primarily immigrants, working in conditions that often include temperatures inside the building in excess of 100 degrees. They have walked the picket lines twice this summer during contract negotiations to protest the Company’s unfair labor practices. Worker say money is not the issue, but rather protecting workplace rights, which they have had in their labor agreement for many years, including the sick-day benefit the company unilaterally discontinued in April.

Workers at Health Systems Cooperative Laundries provide linens to nearly every hospital in the Twin Cities. The linens are typically used the day they are laundered, delivered to hospitals in carts specially set up for distinct uses. It is unclear where the hospitals will obtain linen service, but it will likely be at a much higher cost and without assurance that they will receive the same service that the striking workers provide.

“Going on strike is not something we want to do. We want to provide linens for the hospitals so healthcare workers and medical staff can continue caring for patients with the quality linens they are used to,” said Anita Beachler, a member of the Union’s negotiating committee, who has worked in the laundry for over thirty years. “The company already took our sick-day benefits, and the contract they proposed would strip us of important leave of absence language, limit our bargaining rights over mid-term changes imposed by the Employer and give us no protection should they sell the business to a new owner.

“The work we do is extremely valuable.  Hopefully our bosses will understand that we deserve to be treated with respect, and that they need to give back our sick days and move off their anti-worker proposals in order to avoid a strike,” continued Beachler.

There is no indication as to how long a strike could last.

Members of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota are supporting Worker’s United and will be joining them on the picket line. Worker’s United is affiliated with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) nationally but not directly affiliated with the SEIU Minnesota State Council.

WHAT:
Worker’s United Linen Co-op Strike

WHEN:
Monday, August 5

WHERE:
Health Systems Cooperative Laundries
725 Minnehaha Avenue East | St Paul, MN

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | Monday, August 5
CONTACT:
Kate Brickman | 612-460-1219
Media Relations, SEIU Minnesota State Council

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New Polling Numbers Show Bipartisan Support for Immigration Reform

77 percent of Rep. John Kline’s constituents believe the immigration system is broken, want change this year

St. Paul, Minn. – New polling numbers released today show growing bipartisan support for the U.S. House of Representative to pass immigration reform this year, including Republican support in Rep. John Kline’s district. The numbers come a day before House Republicans are expected to discuss immigration reform at a summit in Washington D.C.

The surveys, which were conducted by Public Policy Polling in seven Congressional Districts across the country, found that voters would be less likely to vote for their Congressman next year if he opposes immigration reform.

In Rep. Kline’s district:
·         44 percent say they would be less likely to support Rep. Kline next year if he votes against immigration reform.
·         77 percent say it’s important for the US to fix its immigration system this year.
·         Voters support the Senate version of the bill by a 69-24 margin.
·         Republicans favor immigration reform by 37 points; Independents favor it by 39 points.

“These numbers reflect a growing momentum all across the country to finally fix our broken immigration system,” said Javier Morillo, President of SEIU Local 26. “The Senate provided a great starting point for the House – we urge our Republican Representatives to call on GOP leadership to bring this bill to the floor for a vote.”

“The House must provide a pathway to citizenship and bring these 11 million aspiring citizens fully into our society. The Senate bill would bring millions of people out of the shadows and reunite hundreds of thousands of families.”

SEIU has partnered with a broad coalition of more than 30 faith, labor and business groups in Minnesota advocating for commonsense immigration reform. On Tuesday, SEIU members joined the coalition for visits to Rep. Kline, Rep. Paulsen and Rep. Bachmann’s offices in Minnesota, urging them to support immigration reform.

Nationally, SEIU has been a strong advocate for immigration reform, launching TV and radio ads featuring Americans of different backgrounds calling on Congress to pass immigration reform.

“Immigration reform is in the best interest of business and labor, of Republicans and Democrats, of all Americans, current and aspiring,” said Morillo. “Every day businesses are unable to hire qualified foreign-born workers. Immigration reform would allow companies to hire the most qualified workers. It would also stop employers that intimidate and exploit undocumented workers, a widespread practice that drives down wages and working conditions for everyone. The time is now for a vote.”

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SEIU is the workers who provide care and support for your family in hospitals, nursing 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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Senate Passes Immigration Bill with Bipartisan Support

SEIU Leaders, Members Thank Senators Klobuchar and Franken for Votes in Favor of Path to Citizenship

St. Paul, Minn. – The U.S. Senate took a critical step toward fixing our country’s broken immigration system today with a bipartisan vote of 68-32 to pass commonsense immigration reform legislation. Members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) in Minnesota are thanking Senators Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken for their leadership and votes in favor of the bill.

“Senators Klobuchar and Franken have been incredible advocates for the 11 million aspiring citizens for years,” said Javier Morillo, President of Local 26. “At SEIU, we’ve been proud to partner with a broad range of business, labor, faith and immigrant rights groups here in Minnesota to help our Senators pass a bill that finally provides a path to citizenship and brings millions of people out of the shadows.

“This bill is not exactly what we would have wanted – the massive build-up at the Southern border will have serious ramifications for border communities and American taxpayers – but we look forward to continuing to work hard to change these provisions and make this bill something that benefits all of us,” continued Morillo.

Emilse Neira immigrated to Minnesota from Colombia and is now a U.S. resident. She is a janitor and a member of Local 26. For her, immigration reform is extremely personal.

“My husband was deported when I was five months pregnant,” said Neira. “At a time we should have been celebrating our new family, our family was instead torn apart. I’m happy to see this vote because the dad of my son can finally regulate his status to bring him out of the shadows. I can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel, not only for me, but for millions of families around the country. Thank you Senators Klobuchar and Franken for your leadership.”

SEIU has been a strong advocate for immigration reform, both here in Minnesota and nationally. Last month, SEIU International launched TV ads as part of an immigration ad campaign, featuring Americans of different backgrounds – including Republicans – calling on Congress to pass immigration reform. The ads represent the growing public opinion across party lines who believe that immigration is good for our country, but say the current system isn’t working.

“These Minnesotans – just as all new American immigrants – contribute to our communities, our society and our economy,” said Jigme Ugen, executive vice president of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota. “As an immigrant myself, I came to America because of the opportunities this country promises for all people. Thank you to Senators Klobuchar and Franken for your leadership not only in the Senate today, but in the Senate Judiciary which first heard this bill.”

SEIU members are now calling upon Minnesota’s representatives in the U.S. House to continue working together to pass immigration reform.

“All House members – especially Republicans – must realize that the American people want Congress to finally solve this problem,” said Morillo. “They must provide a pathway to citizenship and bring these 11 million aspiring citizens fully into our society. I love knowing that I live in a nation that is built upon the dreams of immigrants, upon the idea that in this land, all people have rights. The momentum will continue to fix our broken immigration system, once and for all.”

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 27, 2013
Contact: Kate Brickman, Media Relations Coordinator | 612-460-1219

SEIU is the workers who provide care and support for your family in hospitals, nursing 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 Leaders, Members Celebrate as Supreme Court Strikes Down DOMA

St. Paul, MN – Members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) across the country and here in Minnesota are heralding the historic 5-4 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court this morning striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as unconstitutional.

“This ruling is truly monumental,” said Jamie Gulley, President of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota. “We believe in fairness, in valuing all people. With this ruling, the federal government can’t say that some marriages are second-class. This is an enormous step toward achieving full equality for our LGBT brothers and sisters.”

“The Supreme Court’s historic 5-4 decision finding DOMA unconstitutional is a huge cause for celebration for gay and lesbian couples and for all Americans who care about equal justice under the law,” said Mary Kay Henry, International President of SEIU.

The decision means that on August 1, when same-sex couples can legally begin getting married in Minnesota, those couples will receive all the same federal benefits and protections as their straight counterparts.

SEIU members were active in the 2012 efforts to defeat the marriage amendment that would have permanently limited the freedom to marry for same-sex couples in Minnesota. They were also active in the efforts to pass legislation granting the freedom to marry in 2013. Javier Morillo, President of SEIU Local 26, served as a board member for Minnesotans United for All Families during the 2012 campaign.

“Our members know that our society depends on justice for all people,” said Morillo. “To deny legally married couples the same benefits and responsibilities as straight couples is not just. I’m proud our members played such a pivotal role in securing the freedom to marry for Minnesota same-sex couples. This morning’s decisions show just how important those efforts were.”

“All of our members should be afforded the same rights and responsibilities under the law, particularly when it comes to employment benefits,” said Carol Nieters, Executive Director of SEIU Local 284. “So many same-sex couples and their families were not given the same rights when it comes to the healthcare we provide to our members, simply because our state did not recognize those families. It’s incredible to know that our state and our nation will assure our LGBT brothers and sisters get the same protections under the law.”

Mitch Azarcon, president of the Minnesota SEIU Lavender caucus, testified at the House and Senate committees in support of the bill. She is a surgical core tech at Rochester Methodist Hospital and a member of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota.

“To me, marriage is about love and commitment,” said Azarcon. “The vow of ‘to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part,’ is a vow that should not be afforded to only between one man and one woman. It should be for all couples, and that includes gay and lesbian couples who are willing to make that same commitment with their partners. As a labor leader, I believe in the dignity and worth of all workers, and I will continue to fight for a just and humane society.”

The Supreme Court also ruled to strike down Proposition 8, the California ban on marriages for same-sex couples. In its ruling, the justices said there was “no standing” for private activists to defend the law in federal courts after the state refused to appeal its loss at trial, meaning marriages can resume in California, but upholds existing marriage bans in other states.

“If Minnesotans hadn’t defeated the hurtful amendment last November, this morning’s victories would be bittersweet for thousands of same-sex couples here in our state,” continued Gulley. “Instead, Minnesota showed that we believe love is love, and that all people should be able to marry the person they love. Because of our efforts, thousands of same-sex couples and their families truly have reason to celebrate today.”

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SEIU is the workers who provide care and support for your family in hospitals, nursing 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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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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Home Care Workers Celebrate as Bill Heads to Floor Votes in House and Senate

Bill that would extend collective bargaining rights to workers in public home care programs passes final committee votes

St. Paul, MN – After months of walking the halls, talking with legislators and attending hearings at the State Capitol, home care worker Darleen Henry is overjoyed that a bill that would give her the right to vote on whether she wants to form a union is finally headed to the floor for final votes in both the House and the Senate.
“This bill is a huge deal for my family and me,” said Darleen Henry, who lives in Rosemount. “I want the opportunity to join together in a union with other home care workers so we can make doing this work sustainable. Workers – including me – face low wages and absolutely no benefits, despite working round-the-clock caring for the elderly and people living with disabilities. I don’t want to be forced to leave this career simply because I can’t make ends meet. If that happened, my mom would be forced to move into a nursing home, and that would break her heart and mine.”

Though only 23 years old, Henry has been working as the personal care attendant for her mother ever since her mother suffered a series of small strokes. She has been working with other home care workers who are seeking to change state law so they can have a statewide vote on whether the approximately 12,000 workers would like to join together in a union. The workers have been hard to miss throughout the legislative session, visiting the Capitol each week, attending the many hearings and holding multiple rallies in the Capitol rotunda.

Tonight the Senate Finance committee voted 12 – 10 to send the bill to the full Senate for a final vote on the floor. Last week, members of the House Ways and Means committee approved the bill’s companion, sending it to the full House as well.

The bill would extend 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 together in 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.

“We’re so close to passing this bill, just a couple more votes,” said Pat Winick, who receives services through the Consumer Directed Community Supports waiver program after suffering a traumatic brain injury. “Everyone who does this valuable work deserves to be respected and well compensated. While I set the wages for my workers I am limited by what the State gives me to work with in my budget. Right now workers have no voice in how these budgets are set or what is a fair wage for the services they provide.”

“I have relied on direct support workers for over 12 years,” said Nikki Villavicencio-Tollison, who receives services through the Personal Care Attendant (PCA) Choice program. “I need people who understand that I am a confident, independent woman who uses support services and not someone who is sick or broken who needs care. I use the PCA Choice program because it allows me to choose, train, direct and terminate my own workers. In this program I am the employer. The only thing I don’t control in the PCA choice program is how much my workers are paid. The reimbursement rate is set by the State.

“I support this bill because it will give workers the right to form a union to bargain with the State for better wages and access to benefits. It is difficult to find quality, reliable people who are willing and able to work for low wages and no benefits. When I do find someone who is really good and reliable they always end up leaving to make a living wage. When people do stay and work for me full-time they often have to rely on public assistance to be able to feed their families or get health care for their own children,” continued Villavicencio-Tollison.

In other states where home care workers have joined together in a union, there has been a stabilization of the workforce and an ability to better attract and retain workers. 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.

“This bill will give these workers the right to vote to form a union so they can finally have a powerful collective voice.  I look forward to partnering with these organized workers in advocating for more access to and stable funding for self-directed services,” said Winick.

“A more stable workforce will save the state money,” said Darleen Henry. “Home care workers allow people to remain living independently in their homes, rather than be forced to choose a more expensive nursing home or institution. I take great pride in knowing my work helps people retire with dignity.

“Home care workers deserve the same rights as other workers,” continued Henry. “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. Allowing us the right to join together in a union will improve the lives of workers and the people we care for, while making smart decisions for a better future. I look forward to seeing this through to the final votes in the House and Senate. Mine and my mom’s future depends on it.”

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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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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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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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Bipartisan Support as Home Care Bill Clears First House Committee

Home care workers and clients address Health and Human Services Policy committee about how to address the looming workforce crisis facing Minnesota

St. Paul, MN – Today the Home Care bill, HF 844, cleared its first hurdle in the House, after a vote of 12-7 in the Health and Human Services Policy committee. The vote came after passionate testimony from home care workers and those they care for about the valuable services home care workers provide to the state and the difficulty in retaining talented workers due to low wages, lack of benefits and poor working conditions.

“As the population grows older and the demand for home care services increases, it’s going to be harder and harder to find qualified people do to this work,” said Ze’ev O’Rourke, a home care worker from Minneapolis. “If we don’t start to value this work, people are not going to be able to choose to receive care in their homes. Taking the elderly and disabled from their homes and putting them into expensive facilities is not only hurtful, but costs taxpayers far more than allowing them to keep their independence.”

O’Rourke is one of thousands of home care workers seeking to change state law to allow them to choose to form a union. The workers have been organizing with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) for more than a year and are hopeful this bill will allow them the opportunity to choose for themselves.

Mitch Bushey also testified in favor of the bill, speaking about his job as the home care worker for his 25-year-old son, Jordan, who has cerebral palsy and severe mental retardation. When Jordan turned 21, he was no longer eligible for state-sponsored school. Rather than send Jordan to a daycare program, Bushey wanted to keep Jordan at home.

“I retired early from Ford Motor Company in order to take care of Jordan for the rest of his life or for the rest of my life—whichever comes first,” said Bushey. “I know Jordan’s needs and requirements much better than anybody else. If Jordan was in a state-sponsored institution they would not be able to put in the time or attention needed to monitor his breathing and help with his eating the way I do. He would be forced to have breathing and feeding tubes; he would be hooked up to monitors and confined to a hospital bed. He would require nursing level care, which would be very expensive for taxpayers.”

The bipartisan bill is authored by Rep. Michael Nelson (DFL – District 40A), with dozens of co-authors, including Republican Representative Jim Abeler. The bill seeks to address the looming workforce crisis facing Minnesota’s long-term healthcare programs. It would give home care workers in self-directed programs the ability to negotiate directly with the state, which determines and funds their wages and benefits.

Studies suggest the annual turnover rate for home care workers in Minnesota is as high as 50 percent. Nicole Villavicencio-Tollison testified about the services she has received from home care workers for the past 12 years, saying turnover has certainly been an issue for her.

“It is difficult to find quality, reliable personal care attendants (PCA) who are willing and able to work for low wages and no benefits,” said Villavicencio-Tollison. “When I do find someone who is really good and reliable they always end up leaving to make more money. My aunt worked for me for four years, but had to quit because she couldn’t make enough money to support her family. This has happened over and over again. When PCAs do stay full-time, they often have to rely on public assistance to be able to feed their families or get health care for their own children.”

The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development projects demand for more than 50,000 new home care workers in Minnesota over the next 10 years. However, the core labor pool from which the state’s workers are traditionally drawn – women aged 25-54 – is expected to decline by nearly 2,000 workers.

The bill now moves on to the House Labor, Workplace and Regulated Industries committee. It was heard Monday in the Senate State and Local Government committee, which continued the bill until Wednesday.

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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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Senator Eaton, Representative Nelson Introduce Home Care Workforce Bill

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 21, 2013
Contact: Kate Brickman | 612-460-1219
Media Relations Coordinator | SEIU MN State Council

Bill to address looming workforce crisis introduced in House and Senate

St. Paul, MN – Today Senator Chris Eaton introduced S.F. 665 and Representative Michael Nelson introduced H.F. 844, a bill that would address the looming workforce crisis in our state’s public home care programs, by giving home care workers the right to form a union.

“We are facing a massive shortage of workers to care for seniors and people with disabilities,” said Representative Nelson. “As the Baby Boomers age, there is going to be a strain on our state’s long-term care system. We must ensure there are enough workers to help people retire with dignity.”
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