As published in Union Advocate
On July 8, home care workers from across the state came together to file a union petition that triggered what will be thelargest union election in the history of our state. Ballots will go out to more than 26,000 home care workers on August 1, and we will have our election results before Labor Day.
We’ve fought for years to get to this point, and there are thousands and thousands of workers from every corner of our state who are part of our movement. Each has a story about why they are joining our campaign to form our union and finally make our work “Invisible No More.”
My story is that I’m a home care worker for a sweet girl who suffers from Rett Syndrome. It is a joy to care for this beautiful child, but it is also challenging work. On a daily basis, she requires tube feeding, dressing, bathing, administration of meds and lots of mobility issues including a split-level entrance at her house.
Despite the important work being done by home care workers like me, we face a reality of low pay, no benefits and lack of training and support. When we win our Union, we will be continuing our fight not only for higher wages and benefits, but things like body-braces for caregivers to help ensure safe and quality care for those we serve. Things like this should not be considered luxuries for the Minnesotans who need care. Our campaign is fighting for a better quality of life for workers and the people we serve. Families in Minnesota deserve better than our current situation.
I provide care for my client through the Consumer Directed Community Supports program. Like most home care workers, I do not get paid mileage and many important parts of my job end up having to be done “off the clock.” Home care workers care immensely for the people we serve, and too often our dedication means we are working many hours longer than we are paid for and sacrificing our health to take care of someone else. With the current situation, turnover is incredibly high and the people who receive services end up suffering. As we face a growing number of Minnesotans needing care, this crisis will only get worse. That is why we need our union.
I will be voting “yes” for a Union to move our industry forward, both for workers and the people we serve. By the end of August, we will have our results and will have won the largest union election in state history. This will be a historic moment, but it will only be the beginning.
When we win our union, we will have achieved a groundbreaking step toward our goals of making our work “Invisible No More.”
– Maggie Doran is a home care worker who lives in St. Paul. She plans to vote “yes” this month to form a union of home care workers statewide, represented by SEIU Healthcare Minnesota.
As published in Twin Cities Daily Planet
Sumer Spika: Home care workers unionize to bring dignity to work we love
By Sumer Spika, Community Voices
July 21, 2014
On Tuesday, July 8th, I was proud to be part of the group who celebrated turning in thousands of cards signed by Personal Care Attendants (PCAs) and other home care workers from across Minnesota expressing our interest in forming a union. The move not only triggered the largest union election in Minnesota’s history, it was the first step in improving our state’s home care system so it works for those who need services and values the work of those of us who provide the services, some 90% of whom are women.
If you talk to the thousands of home care providers who signed cards, you will hear that same number of unique and powerful stories. There is, however, a common thread that helps illuminate why this is such a powerful movement: we love providing care for the seniors and people with disabilities who we serve.
For me, it is all about a gorgeous 6-year-old little girl named Jayla. She was born with a genetic disorder called Opitz Syndrome, has a pulmonary hypertension, and is deaf. She requires breathing treatments, help with toileting, and help doing many other daily activities. I love working with Jayla, but am constantly challenged by the poor working conditions in home care. I want to do everything I can to provide her with quality care but am left to my own resources to stay current on training, technologies, and the latest developments in health care.
On a personal level, the work takes a toll. Two years ago, I gave birth to my beautiful baby boy. Because my work offers no vacation time, I was only able to take one week off after I had a C-section. Further, I have struggled financially to provide for my own family because I care so deeply about taking care of Jayla. Too many PCAs struggle with similar situations. We are paid low wages with no benefits, no sick days, and no vacations. Many live in poverty and others have not had a day off in years. Some have seen their own health fail while they spend all of their energy taking care of someone else. I love the work I do but do not believe that anyone who offers his or her hard work should be relegated to a life of poverty.
We are proud that our work allows those we care for to continue living independently, but in the end, too many great home care workers are forced to leave for other jobs because they can’t survive with the current working conditions. By coming together to form a union, we are fighting not only for ourselves, but also for the people we serve. We are saying that our work must be recognized as real and important work, and that home care workers will no longer tolerate being invisible.
In other states where home care workers have formed unions, they’ve seen increased wages and benefits while protecting the rights and budgets of their clients. Improvements in home care working conditions have reduced worker turnover, a chronic problem in our field that disrupts the quality of services clients receive.
Our state faces a looming workforce crisis in long-term care in the coming years as baby boomers age and the demand for services increases. By paying fair wages and benefits, and providing better training opportunities, we can stabilize this field and recruit new workers to fill the looming gap. What we cannot afford is inaction.
As our effort to form a home care union moved from the State Capitol to one-on-one conversations across the state, our resolve has only grown stronger. After the Supreme Court ruled on Harris v Quinn last week, we said that we would continue to stand together and fight for improved care, and that is exactly what we are doing.When we win our union election later this summer, we will be taking an incredible first step to improve the home care field in Minnesota.
Our work is important. Our work is valuable. Our work deserves dignity, respect, and recognition. When we win our union, we will be one step closer to our goal of making sure home care work is finally “Invisible No More.”
Sumer Spika is a mother of three and a home care worker who lives in St. Paul.
On Friday, July 11, the Minnesota Bureau of Mediation Services sent an Election Order to all eligible voters for the Home Care Union election. It reads that “the Bureau of Mediation Services, State of Minnesota orders that a mail ballot election be conducted in the appropriate unit of ‘individual providers.’
“Individual providers” are personal care assistants and other home care workers providing direct support services through client-directed Medicaid programs including PCA Choice, Consumer Directed Community Supports (CDCS), and Consumer Support Grants.