After more than 17 hours of debate, the Senate passed legislation this morning to give the state’s home care and child care workers the opportunity to vote on organizing a union. At the conclusion of the debate, Senate Majority Leader Bakk shared his perspective as a lifelong union member and emphasized the impact labor unions have on Minnesotans’ standard of living.
Share this video with your friends and family to show them the importance of unions in Minnesota.
The House will be voting on this proposal later this week and many Representatives are still on the fence. Contact your Representative now so they know that you support the right of care workers to vote on organizing a union.
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.”
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.
Minnesota is facing a looming workforce crisis when it comes to long-term home health care.
Baby Boomers are aging, and the projected need for personal care assistants in the next decade far exceeds the number of people entering the field.
Health care advocates say it’s difficult to attract and retain quality workers due to low wages and a lack of benefits.
After years of attacks and attempts to weaken workers’ rights, this year could be a major win for labor in Minnesota. Right now bills in both the House and Senate would extend collective bargaining rights to more than 20,000 workers who currently lack the right to form a union under state law.
The bills cover two groups of workers – consumer-directed home care workers and in-home childcare providers – who provide enormous value to our state.
Letter to the Editor, Mankato Free Press, April 25, 2013
I’ve worked as a personal care attendant for more than 20 years, caring for seniors and people with disabilities in the Mankato and surrounding communities.
I first started working as a PCA while studying special education at Mankato State. I’ve continued the work even though I have a different full-time job. I take pride in the work I do as a PCA.
I work around 20 hours a week for five different clients who depend on me to maintain their quality of life and continue living independently. Because of my experience, I’m often asked to train other workers on how to provide quality care, be responsive to clients individual needs and to take the job seriously. I am not paid for any of the time I spend training others, but do it for the benefit of those receiving care.
I’ve seen so many PCAs come and go over the years. Many home-care workers leave for jobs with better pay and benefits. The high rate of turnover affects the clients who depend on these services.
Each time a PCA leaves, clients have to start all over in developing a relationship with a new worker.
I believe we could reduce turnover and improve the standards of workers and quality of care if we had a union in Minnesota.
A union would allow PCAs to negotiate for better wages and benefits, which would give us all a better sense of self worth for the important work we do.
Andrew Manning, North Mankato
Letter to the Editor, Sun Current, April 24, 2013
I am the home care worker for my 50-year-old son, who has schizophrenia. He lives independently at his apartment in St. Louis Park. I come by regularly to make sure everything is OK and help him with his schedule and routine.
He’s been receiving home care services since he was 25, but it’s been difficult to find good, reliable and trustworthy home care workers. When I retired, I took over as his home care worker myself to ensure he would get the care he needed.
My son is penalized with a “family deductible” – a monthly fee he has to pay in order to have me be his home care worker. It’s discriminatory to family members and makes no sense.
The work other home care workers and I do helps people like my son live independently and stay out of institutions, which saves the state money. We deserve some benefits like sick leave, vacation, and health insurance.
I want a union for home care workers so we can have more of a voice in how the system works. This will help ensure there is a stable, viable workforce. We also need to prioritize mental health more in our state, and by having a voice with a home care union, we can advocate for this kind of change.
Janet Konezny, Edina
Letter to the Editor, Sun Current, April 16, 2013
I work as a personal caregiver for my mother.
She has severe rheumatoid arthritis, which has left her deformed and soon unable to walk. Many daily cares that we take for granted are extremely difficult for my mother, so I make myself available to her 24/7. My mother deserves and receives every dignity.
Over the past decade, a rigged budget has cut more and more funding which allows seniors the ability to retire with dignity and remain in their homes.
I am in favor of forming a union to help to help the small voice, such as myself, be heard. I am one of many who have been greatly affected by this rigged budget cut.
It’s time we support efforts to make critical investments in care for seniors and people with disabilities.
It begins with investing in the people who care for the elderly and Minnesotans with disabilities. Home care workers provide critical services. The work we do is real and matters to thousands of people in our state.
June Oliver, Bloomington