United Home Care Workers Minnesota

In Wake of Harris vs. Quinn, Minnesota Home Care Workers Vow to Continue Fighting For Good Jobs and Quality Home Care

Caregivers to work with State and consumers to ensure a strong voice for improving care in Minnesota

St. Paul, Minn – Home care workers and consumers vowed to continue standing up for quality home care in Minnesota in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling today in the case of Harris v. Quinn regarding Illinois home care workers.

The ruling brought a strong response from both consumers and home care workers, the direct support staff who care for seniors and people with disabilities in their homes. Workers have been organizing to form a union to improve working conditions and care, and they remain united and more determined than ever following the decision.

“This ruling will not stop the home care workers in Minnesota who are joining together to form a union to raise our wages, have a voice on the job, and improve conditions in the healthcare field,” said Sumer Spika, a home care worker from St. Paul.  “Our state faces a looming workforce crisis in public home care programs, and this decision will not stop home care workers from fighting to ensure quality care for all Minnesotans. Forming a union will help workers while also protecting the rights of the elderly and people with disabilities by allowing them to remain in their homes.”

Home care leaders cited overwhelming support from fellow workers, consumers, and elected officials as part of their motivation to continue fighting for changes in the home care field.

“No court decision will change the fact that improving work conditions will help to protect the rights of the people we serve, and will save the state money by allowing Minnesotans to stay in their homes,” said Shaquonica Johnson, a home care worker from Brooklyn Park. “Home care workers in Minnesota are staying united and are prepared to work with consumers, advocates, and elected leaders in our state to ensure that workers have a strong voice in our fight for a strong home care system in our state.”

With the nation facing a long-term care crisis, the state needs to recruit and retain astable, qualified workforce to meet the growing need for home care as the number of older Americans increases dramatically in the coming years. Consumers have been strong supporters of the campaign, noting that workers coming together for better wages and benefits help to stabilize the field.

“My family understands the challenges facing home care workers, and believes that workers need a unified voice that will come through forming a union. When workers have good wages and benefits, along with a say in their workplace, it helps to improve the stability of the workforce and improve care for families like mine,” said Nikki Villavicencio, a recipient of home care service. “We will work with the home care workers and the state to make sure that all of our work to improve the home care program in Minnesota continues to move forward.”

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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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SEIU Healthcare Minnesota Celebrates 80 Years of History, Looks to the Future for Healthcare Workers in Minnesota

On Friday, September 20th healthcare workers from across Minnesota came together to celebrate 80 years of improving people’s lives, while welcoming in a new wave of workers. The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare Minnesota celebrated its 80th anniversary, bringing in leaders from across the state and country to honor the oldest healthcare union in America.

“Eighty years ago, the people who cleaned the hospitals, mended the linens and cared for patients were mostly women and people of color – the work they did was not seen as real work. When Congress passed the National Labor Relations Act in the 1930s, they left these workers out of the law,” said Jamie Gulley, President of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota.

“But eighty years ago, something special happened here in the Twin Cities. These workers – women, many of them women of color – joined together to fight against low pay, lack of benefits, and most of all, the lack of respect that accompanied their work. They formed a union and won voluntary recognition to create the first healthcare workers’ union in America,” continued Gulley.

Mary Kay Henry, the International President of SEIU, joined in the celebration. Henry, the first woman elected to lead SEIU, began her career as a union organizer with SEIU Healthcare Minnesota.

During her visit, Henry welcomed the personal care attendants (PCAs) and other home care workers who participated in the union assembly as they prepare to launch their organizing drive to form a union with SEIU Healthcare Minnesota later this fall.

“For too long this vital occupation, upon which the health and independence of millions depend, has been treated as marginal and casual work to be performed under poverty conditions,” said Henry. “This has been so, even as the occupation has become among the fastest growing and most vitally important within the American health care system.

“I welcome these workers’ efforts to make home care jobs into the good quality jobs that we need to get our economy moving again and to ensure that all Americans have access to the quality care they deserve.”

Home care workers spent part of the day laying out their vision for their union, which they shared during a brief press conference.

“The PCA program is a blessing when it works. But in my years as a PCA, I see that most of the time it’s not working very well because of the high turnover and the lack of training opportunities. I have met and talked with many other PCAs— the problems are affecting all of us,” said Shaquonica Johnson, a home care worker from St. Paul. “I want a union so that if my family ever needs to rely on a PCA in the future, there will be a lot of good, well trained, reliable people to draw from.”

“Through our union, we are going to make sure that our work is respected,” said Jane Conrad, a home care worker from Richmond. “We provide direct support services so people can stay in their homes, but we also need to earn a respectable wage so we can afford our homes.”

“I’ve worked hard as a disability advocate to ensure that everyone who needs self-directed support services has access to them,” said Nikki Villavicencio, a recipient of home care services. “But no matter how hard we fight, our services will always be in danger as long as our PCAs are expected to work for low wages with no benefits, little access to training and no voice to change those things. If my workers have a better quality of life, my family and I have a better quality of life.”

Dozens of PCAs and other direct support workers said they are continuing to talk with other workers across the state as they prepare to launch their statewide organizing drive later this fall. Self-directed home care workers in public programs recently won the right to form a union under state law.

“We are proud of the history we have of being leaders in the healthcare industry,” said Gulley. “Today, that history continues with the thousands of home care workers around the state who are working to form a union. Home care workers provide care for our seniors and people with disabilities. Yet today they have the same struggles the hospital workers who founded our unions faced 80 years ago – low pay, lack of benefits and lack of respect. We look forward to their inclusion in our great tradition of improving people’s lives.”

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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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House Passes Landmark Bill Granting Collective Bargaining Rights to Home Care Workers

MNLegislators
St. Paul, MN – More than 50 hours after first arriving at the Capitol Saturday afternoon, Sumer Spika joined a tired, but elated group of home care workers and recipients in celebration.

“This is incredible,” said Spika, a home care worker from St. Paul. “Home care workers deserve the same right as other workers to form a union and now, because of this bill, we will soon have that right to choose for ourselves if we want a union.”

The House voted 68 – 66 to approve a bill which extends collective bargaining rights to self-directed home care workers in public programs. The workers and those they care for have been a constant presence throughout session, talking with legislators, holding rallies and testifying at hearings in their support of the bill. Since the House put the bill on the calendar for Saturday, workers have been camped outside the chambers to show their support. If the Governor signs the bill into law, the approximately 12,000 workers would be allowed to start the process of holding an election to vote on a union.

“This bill is about ensuring the basic rights of undervalued workers to choose for themselves if they want to collectively bargain for better wages,” said Rep. Michael Nelson, the chief author of the House version of the bill. “These workers, who are predominately women, now have an opportunity to bargain for improvements in their lives and the lives of the children, seniors and people with disabilities they serve. No longer will our state be able to dismiss the immense value of their work.”

“As we’ve said all along, this bill is simply about giving us the right to choose for ourselves,” said Darleen Henry, a 23-year-old home care worker from Rosemount who cares for her mom. “By forming a union, we can negotiate with the state for better wages, paid time off, even training. Mine and my mother’s future, as well as everyone else’s, could only get better.”

The vote came after more than 10 hours of debate stretching over three days, with Republicans threatening to filibuster with more than 100 amendments. The Senate passed the bill early Wednesday morning after a record-setting 17 hours of debate. Workers across the state have been vocal about their desire to form a union.

“I work hard as a PCA (personal care attendant),” said Vicki Dewald, a home care worker from Detroit Lakes. “My work helps the state save countless dollars that would be spent on a long-term care institution if I wasn’t there to work with my grandson and keep him living independently. By forming a union we can improve conditions for workers, which will keep good PCAs and improve the quality of care clients receive. We should have a say in the programs that benefit us all.”

“Workers need the chance to come together to work for better wages, access to benefits and access to training,” said Jim Lovold, a disability advocate who receives PCA services. “When I do find people to work for me they almost always leave to go do something where they make more money. I support this bill because it will give advocates who use self-directed services and the people who work for us a voice in fixing the system.”

Other states have passed similar legislation allowing self-directed PCAs to organize – 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.

A study from the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute (PHI), the nation’s leading authority on the direct care workforce, released a report in January which showed a looming workforce crisis and a care gap of thousands of workers in Minnesota. A union will allow Minnesota to retain and attract enough workers to care for the aging population in their homes and avoid a massive strain on long-term care facilities.

“This is a celebration today,” said Spika. “It’s been a long road in our fight to get the same rights as other workers. We are so thankful to the legislators who voted on this historic bill to support working families, who voted to let us choose for ourselves. This is a win for all of us and we look forward to winning our union vote.”

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Sen. Bakk on Right to Vote Floor Speech

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.

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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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MN Faces Looming Workforce Crisis for Long-Term Home Health Care

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.

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Working together to grow our movement

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.

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Andrew Manning: Unionizing personal care attendants a plus

Letter to the Editor, Mankato Free Press, April 25, 2013

http://mankatofreepress.com/letters/x1097434717/Your-View-Unionizing-personal-care-attendants-a-plus

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

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Janet Konezny: Unionization would give us a voice

Letter to the Editor, Sun Current, April 24, 2013

http://current.mnsun.com/2013/04/letter-unionization-would-give-us-a-voice/

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

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June Oliver: Caregivers, recipients need organized voice

Letter to the Editor, Sun Current, April 16, 2013

http://current.mnsun.com/2013/04/letter-caregivers-recipients-need-organized-voice/

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

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