SAINT PAUL – Home care workers and clients across Minnesota continued their call for Minnesota lawmakers to take action on the bipartisan bill that would provide an emergency wage and benefit increase for the workers who care for Minnesota seniors and people with disabilities.
The legislation would provide a 15% temporary rate increase during the COVID-19 pandemic and would help tens of thousands of families across the state. A bill was passed off the floor of the Minnesota House as a priority of the House DFL and a similar Senate bill had bipartisan support. Home care workers are overwhelmingly women and many are Black and people of color. Currently many home care workers make only $13.25 to do this critical work.
Home care workers and clients were frustrated by the inability to pass this commonsense bill during the regular session and are calling on legislators to prioritize this important bill during the special session.
Saint Paul home care client Brittanie Wilson shared why this increase would be so helpful to people with disabilities and seniors across the state who rely on home care workers to stay safely in their homes.
“Now, more than ever, we need our elected leaders to do what is right and pass this emergency increase to help support Minnesotans across the state who rely on home care to stay safely in our homes,” said Wilson. “An increase in wages during this crucial time will have a huge impact on this industry – not only for PCAs, but for clients too. Higher wages will allow me to retain and recruit more staff who I’m relying on more and more for these critical services in order to stay home.”
Deb Howze, a home care worker and member of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota who participated in a “Walk-A-Day” with Governor Walz last winter to highlight the important work done every day by home care workers, demanded action from lawmakers.
“With everything that has happened over the last few months, home care workers continue to put ourselves and our families at risk to make sure seniors and people with disabilities across our state can safely stay in their homes. Even with everything going on, we are doing this hard work, with many workers still making as low as $13.25 per hour. During the legislative session we appreciated the words of support for our work from the Governor and elected officials from both parties in the House and Senate talking about how this work desperately needs to see a pay increase, but we’ve heard enough talk. We need action,” said Howze. “Minnesotans who are struggling need our leaders to use the special session to pass this bill to show they care about seniors, people with disabilities and the workers who help keep them safely in their homes.”
The proposed increase would help address the state’s care crisis. Prior to the pandemic, there was a shortage of thousands of home care workers for all the Minnesotans who need them, due to the low wages and lack of benefits for this critical work. The COVID-19 pandemic has made that shortage far worse, leaving many seniors and people with disabilities without the care they need to remain safely in their homes.
SEIU Healthcare Minnesota represents over 40,000 healthcare workers in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and self-directed home care, in every community in the state. On behalf of these essential workers providing frontline care to Minnesotans during the COVID-19 pandemic, I am writing to urge you to extend our state’s peacetime emergency.
Many of our members are risking their lives every day of this pandemic, just by going in to work and doing their jobs. Every day we learn of more healthcare workers stuck at home because they’ve tested positive for COVID-19, and some days we get the tragic news that another healthcare worker has died as a result of their exposure at work. Just this Monday, healthcare workers gathered near North Memorial Medical Center to mourn and remember LarryDean Goodrich, a phlebotomist and longtime union member at North Memorial, who died of COVID-19. Let there be no doubt: for healthcare workers, this disease remains an emergency.
While PPE supplies in some healthcare settings have improved over the last few weeks, the overwhelming majority of home care workers continue to have no access to PPE, and in a recent Telephone Town Hall meeting of nursing home workers across the state, more than 50% reported that their facilities continue to lack adequate PPE supply. Home care workers continue to lack sufficient sick time to remain home during a two-week quarantine, sufficient pay to keep enough workers showing up to care for their clients during the pandemic, and the funding for overtime hours that’s needed for those workers still willing to come to work to put in more hours. We are a long way from the conditions that would justify an end to the peacetime emergency.
But nowhere is the continuing crisis clearer than in nursing homes and other congregate care settings. We would invite anyone with doubts about whether COVID-19 remains an emergency to visit one of the state’s many nursing homes with large outbreaks – except that, appropriately, visitors are barred from entering those facilities. For nursing home residents and workers – and especially for residents and workers who are Black and Brown – every day presents a very real chance of COVID-19 infection, and in far too many cases, death. The numbers should be familiar to everyone at this point: 80% of COVID-19 deaths in Minnesota have been among residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Black Minnesotans account for 22% of confirmed COVID cases, while making up less than 6% of the state’s population. An ending of the peacetime emergency and all the protections for Minnesotans that have been enabled by it would be an insult to the courageous work being done every day by nursing assistants, nurses, housekeepers, dietary workers, laundry workers and other frontline staff in our nursing homes – a group that includes several thousand Black and Brown immigrants. It would also disrespect and dishonor the residents those workers serve, who we have every reason to believe will continue to be the primary victims of this disease for many months to come.
If the peacetime emergency is not extended, the critical funding available to nursing homes under MN 12A.10 would soon expire. Many nursing homes have used these expedited reimbursements to pay for important anti-COVID measures like additional staffing, paid leave for suspected COVID cases, hero pay, and PPE.
The peacetime state of emergency you signed into law on March 13 allowed the state to open a toolbox of other resources and to take decisive action to protect Minnesotans, including:
This is just a small sub-set of the urgently needed measures undertaken under the peacetime emergency. Extending the peacetime state of emergency allows the state to continue taking those kinds of steps to make sure Minnesotans stay safe. An extension will also ensure that the Executive Orders already in place remain in effect and that we continue to have the flexibility to respond quickly to needs that arise across the state, especially among the frontline caregivers risking their lives every day when they go to work, and the patients, residents and clients they serve.
Jamie Gulley, President
We have reached a tentative contract agreement with Park Nicollet Health Services. If ratified by a majority of union couriers, the new contract agreement will go into effect with the new wages rates retroactive to April 1, 2020.
The bargaining team is recommending a yes vote. We believe this tentative agreement is an important step forward towards wage parity with other union members who do similar work. We succeeded at winning an immediate adjustment to the wage scales and a commitment that SEIU Couriers will be paid at the same rate as SEIU Pharmacy Messengers/Shuttle Bus Drivers at Park Nicollet Methodist starting April 1, 2022. We also negotiated language that prevents the employer from requiring anyone to lift, on their own, packages that weigh over 50lbs, language allowing paid time for new employee union orientation, and we resolved issues regarding the lead pay rates by creating a lead pay differential. While the new agreement does not reflect everything you deserve, it is a significant step forward. During these uncertain times when employers are making cuts, the value of having wages and rights guaranteed in a union contract is more apparent than ever before.
Please look over the tentative agreements (scroll down), ask any questions you may have. The tentative agreements below lists changes to your existing contact, any language that is not listed in a tentative agreement would remain the same as the current contact, which you can view here (http://www.seiuhealthcaremn.org/files/2017/10/Park-Nicollet-Couriers-CONTRACT_3.8.2017-3.31.2020.pdf)
Please vote online here (https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2958L2H) by 5pm on Monday, June 8th, 2020.
If a majority of those who vote, vote yes, this tentative agreement will go into effect. If a majority vote no, you would have to demonstrate your collective power through a strike and then try to re-negotiate. The bargaining team is recommending a yes vote.
If you have any questions, please call more, send an email or reach out to the bargaining team.
SOLIDARITY RESOLUTION – Adopted by SEIU HCMN Executive Board on June 1, 2020
Whereas we mourn the death of George Floyd by the Minneapolis Police, and
Whereas our members have joined in peaceful protests of his death as well as the pattern of police brutality against members of the black community in our state and our country, and
Whereas alongside those peaceful protests there were also significant incidents of vandalism, property damage, fires and destruction (both by those who were legitimately outraged by George Floyd’s death and those who were motivated by other impulses, including a desire, by some, to undermine the lawful expressions of protest, grief and rage in our community), and
Whereas the destruction of our grocery stores and pharmacies, the shutting down of public transportation, and many related health and environmental impacts urgently need to be addressed, and
Whereas our Union is at our best when we pull together across our state, across difference of race and gender to help our members and community in need,
Therefore, be it resolved:
SEIU HCMN Members will provide leadership, resources and staff support for our members in affected areas of our community to identify needs and to provide material support, assistance, and service for the members of our union and community in need of assistance and
Therefore be it further resolved:
SEIU HCMN will allocate $5,000 immediately to this effort and will report back any additional needs and areas for support to the Executive Board at our next meeting on June 15th.
Listen to the recording of the TeleTown Hall with Minnesota Department of Health Commissioner Jan Malcolm, SEIU Healthcare MN members who work in nursing homes and UFCW members.
1st half of recording:
2nd half of recording:
Last month, SEIU members across Allina Hospitals and Clinics ratified a furlough agreement providing an opportunity for members to furlough in areas with reduced work-load for a week at a time. The furlough program allowed members to be removed from work for a week at a time in order to provide opportunities for members to apply for unemployment and the additional stimulus money provided by Congress. It was also a way to provide members a chance to take time away from work and possible exposures during the COVID-19 state of emergency.
That furlough agreement expires this weekend on Saturday, May 9th.
For the past two weeks, SEIU Healthcare Minnesota leaders have been discussing an extension of the agreement and I am pleased to report that a copy of that extension is attached with this email (click here).
The extension of the furlough agreement is different in several respects from the original version and required a membership ratification in order to be adopted. Members Wednesday, May 6th during a Tele-Town Hall meeting to accept the agreement.
Teletown hall recording (1st half)
Teletown hall recording (2nd half)
Summary of Changes:
May is “Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.” Throughout the month join us in celebrating the achievements and contributions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States.
The month of May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese to the United States on May 7, 1843, and to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869. The majority of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants.
We strongly condemn any and all forms of racism and discrimination against the Asian American Pacific Islander communities due to COVID-19. This virus has the potential to affect all communities, regardless of race, nationality or ethnic background. This is the time for solidarity, not stigma.
Last week, the Minnesota Department of Health asked for public comment on the return of elective procedures to Minnesota hospitals and clinics. Currently, our union represents nearly 2,000 workers who are experiencing low need or furlough as a result of the temporary halt to elective procedures. While our union wholeheartedly supports resuming surgeries for urgent and critical matters, we continue to oppose a full return of elective procedures…..for now. The key criteria for our support will be adequate supplies of PPE in all areas of the healthcare industry.
Currently, SEIU Nursing Home workers are in many places caring for residents in paper masks they were given a week ago and the gowns we are provided sometimes consist of nothing more than raincoats. We have yet to receive any PPE for home care workers, even for those caring for the clients at greatest risk of exposure. In addition, the PPE supplies on hand in our hospitals are not enough to last through a surge of COVID-19 cases. Our state has made significant progress on preparing for a surge but we are not yet ready for a full return of elective surgeries. Our whole union looks forward to returning to full surgery schedules as soon as we can do it safely.