United Home Care Workers Minnesota

Richard L’Allier: Support effort to unionize personal care attendants

Letter to the Editor, Woodbury Bulletin, April 14, 2013

http://www.woodburybulletin.com/event/article/id/43558/group/Opinion/

I work as the personal care attendant (PCA) for my partner of 26 years, Jessie. Jessie was once a dancer on “American Bandstand” – today she faces an array of health problems, including diabetes that has resulted in the amputation of her legs. She can do very little with her arms, her kidneys are in bad shape which necessitates weekly dialysis, and her eyes are also failing her.

Jessie needs help with all aspects of life – cooking, cleaning, changing her colostomy bag and diapers, bathing, and moving around. Her PCA makes her feel comforted and secure.

We’ve had several bad experiences trying to find good PCAs. One even walked out during her shift. To make sure Jessie had stable care, last year I quit my job doing maintenance making $19 per hour to work as Jessie’s PCA for $11 per hour.

The reason it’s so hard to find a good home care worker is because of the low wages and lack of real benefits. Home care workers do as difficult and as important of a job as those who work in nursing homes and hospitals but we don’t have basic benefits like paid sick days. If I’m sick and have to work because there’s no paid time off, I could end up infecting a client like Jessie that is very vulnerable.

Home care workers do tough work and need to be paid decent wages and benefits. I support a bill that would give home care workers the right to form a union – with a union, we can increase the standards of PCA work, attract better PCAs and provide better care.

Please give us the right to make something more of our careers, rather than living paycheck to paycheck. Jessie – and the thousands of others receiving care – are counting on us.

Richard L’Allier – Woodbury

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Home Care Workers Rally At Capitol As Bill Progresses Through Committees

Minnesota Home care workers seeking the right to form a union will gather at Capitol after successfully navigating a series of House and Senate hearings.On March 21st at the Minnesota State Capitol, home care workers joined together with recipients of home care programs, their friends and family and SEIU Healthcare Minnesota leaders for a rally to show support for a bill that give them the right to form a union and solve the looming home care workforce crisis facing Minnesota. The rally was be a chance for workers to show their support yet again as the bills head to their final committees before being recommended for floor votes.

The home care workers in self-directed programs – who would gain the right to form a union as covered under Article 2 of HF 950 and SF 778 – have been prominent at the committee hearings, delivering powerful testimony and continuing to show a visible presence in support of the bills. More after the break!

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A Week of Legislative Milestones for Home Care Bill

LobbyDay_HCW_20130306_ktThe home care bill we’ve been advocating for to grant collective organizing rights to home care workers seeking to form a union is on its way!

On Tuesday, the bill (HF 844) successfully passed through the House Health and Human Services Policy committee with bipartisan support. On Wednesday the bill cleared the Senate State and Local Government committee, which was a continuation from Monday’s committee hearing, where Sen. Sandy Pappas moved to merge SF 665 with SF 778, a bill that would also grant organizing rights to in-home childcare providers.

Sen. Sandy Pappas says both bills will extend the Public Employment Labor Relations Act (PELRA) to cover the workers for purposes of collective bargaining with the state over wages and benefits.

Senator Chris Eaton, co-author of SF 665, strongly believes in the need for this bill to cover home care workers who work in self-directed programs whose wages and benefits are determined and funded by the state. “These workers should have the same right under state law as teachers, nurses, and firefighters to form a union and negotiate with the people who determine their wages and benefits,” said Eaton. “Doing so will help us attract and retain more workers, which is crucial given that the need for home care workers will continue to increase as the Baby Boomers age.” More after the break!

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Home Care Bill Moves Ahead, Passes First Committees in Senate and House

Bill would help address long-term care gap, attract and retain more workers by granting collective bargaining rights

St. Paul, MN – A bill granting collective organizing rights to home care workers seeking to form a union is headed for its second round of committee hearings in the Senate and House next week after a vote of 7-5 in the Senate State and Local Government committee today. The bill would address the looming workforce crisis facing Minnesota’s long-term healthcare programs by increasing the ability to attract and retain personal care attendants and other home care workers.

“I am tired of losing good home care workers because they move on to jobs where they can get fair wages and benefits,” said Holly Adams, a 19-year-old woman who relies on home care workers due to congenital muscular dystrophy. “Home care workers should be treated fairly for what they do. This isn’t a nothing job, it is important work that allows me to be independent and to live the life that I deserve. I shouldn’t be penalized for needing this care. I am trying to use it in a positive way, but when home care workers are not a priority, neither am I.”

“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 Nicole Villavicencio-Tollison, who has received home care services for the past 12 years. “When I do find someone who is really good and reliable they always end up leaving to make more money. This has happened over and over again.”

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. Studies suggest the annual turnover rate for home care workers in Minnesota is as high as 50 percent.

“I have sacrificed financial stability to continue working as a home care worker because I have a strong desire to care for others,” said Sumer Spika, a home care worker from St. Paul. “Recently, I gave birth to a baby boy and was only able to take one week off work after having a C-section because I didn’t have the option to take time off work.”

The vote was held over from Monday’s committee hearing, where Sen. Sandy Pappas moved to merge SF 665 with SF 778, a bill that would also grant organizing rights to in-home childcare providers. Sen. Pappas says both bills would extend the Public Employment Labor Relations Act (PELRA) to cover the workers for purposes of collective bargaining with the state over wages and benefits.

Co-author of SF 665, Senator Chris Eaton, says the bill would cover home care workers who work in self-directed programs whose wages and benefits are determined and funded by the state.

“These workers should have the same right under state law as teachers, nurses, and firefighters to form a union and negotiate with the people who determine their wages and benefits,” said Sen. Eaton. “Doing so will help us attract and retain more workers, which is crucial given that the need for home care workers will continue to increase as the Baby Boomers age.”

“I grew up in a family where I watched my single mother have to make the decision to send my brother to a residential facility away from our home because of the severity of his disability and the lack of support to families in their homes in those times,” said Rochelle Turan, a mother who relies on home care workers for her two sons with disabilities. “I was devastated as a young girl. These workers allow family members not to have to make the decision I watched my mother go through. This is what makes home care workers so valuable.”

The bill now moves to the Senate Health, Human Services and Housing committee. On Tuesday, the bill passed by 12-7 with bi-partisan support in the House Health and Human Services Policy committee, sending it to the House Labor, Workplace and Regulated Industries committee.

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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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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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Home Care Bill Gets First Hearing in Senate, Aims to Solve Workforce Crisis

Contact: Kate Brickman, Media Relations Coordinator
612-460-1219 | kbrickman@seiumn.org

Home care workers and clients testify that bill to grant organizing rights would help address long-term care gap, attract and retain more workers

St. Paul, MN – Home care workers turned out in force Monday for the first committee hearing for SF 665, which would grant collective organizing rights to home care workers seeking to form a union with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). The bill would address the looming workforce crisis facing Minnesota’s long-term healthcare programs by giving home care workers in self-directed programs the ability to negotiate directly with the state, which determines and funds their wages and benefits.

At the first hearing in the Senate State and Local Government committee, Sen. Sandy Pappas (DFL – District 65) moved to merge SF 665 with SF 778, a bill that would also grant organizing rights to in-home childcare providers. Sen. Pappas says both bills would extend the Public Employment Labor Relations Act (PELRA) to cover the workers for purposes of collective bargaining with the state over wages and benefits. More here!

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Linda Wilcox: Letter to the Editor

Letter to the Editor, Brainerd Dispatch, March 4, 2013

http://brainerddispatch.com/opinion/open-forum/2013-03-04/home-care-workers

Across Minnesota and here in Brainerd there are people with a job that is invisible—it’s time to bring us into light. We are called home care workers and personal care assistants. We provide direct support for seniors and people with disabilities through Medicare programs so they can continue living independently at home, rather than in expensive institutions.

I work for my grandson who has Aspergers Syndrome. Like most grandparents, I would do anything for my grandson. I was horrified last year when the state cut my already-low pay because I am a relative.

Home care workers are paid low wages with no benefits, no sick days and no vacations. Training is minimal, yet we are responsible for people’s lives. There is no CPR training and no emergency protocol. Home care workers are sent out to homes with no idea what they are walking into. We care for children and adults with a huge range of needs—from people who are paraplegic to seniors with dementia to children with autism. We fill all their needs every day so they can live the best possible lives.

Keeping people out of institutions saves taxpayers money, and the need for home care workers is on the rise. Unlike nurses or teachers, I don’t have the right to negotiate for better working conditions, better pay or more training. Alone, I can’t change anything. That is why I am urging home care workers to join me in supporting a bill that allows us to form a union. By joining together we can make life better for ourselves and our clients. We can fight to stop the budget cuts, get health insurance and keep our families safe.

Linda Wilcox, Brainerd

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Rosalie Rutherford: A home care worker’s union would benefit many

Letter to the Editor, Grand Rapids Herald-Review, March 2, 2013 

http://www.grandrapidsmn.com/opinion/letters_to_editor/article_98b40ee2-82bf-11e2-ac98-001a4bcf887a.html

Since 1992, I have been one of a force of over 10,000 Minnesota home care workers. We are the workers who enable the disabled and elderly to live at home instead of an institution. We are the workers who care for your loved ones, or perhaps even you one day. And we do it all for low wages and no benefits.

I have been fortunate to have had mostly wonderful clients…some not so wonderful. I have had to shovel snow, haul wood and scrub a rug on my hands and knees. I have never had a paid sick day or paid vacation. I couldn’t afford health care so I prayed that I didn’t get sick. A union would have made things so much better for me, but we weren‘t allowed to organize.

Right now I have a client who is like a daughter to me. She has been in a group home and in an assisted living apartment. In both of those places she didn’t get the type of care that she should have because she had home care workers who were mostly younger and unprofessional. They didn’t stay very long either because of the low pay and lack of benefits, something that would change with a union. A union would benefit us, and ultimately our clients.

I urge our legislature to support a bill that would give us the right to form a union so that we could negotiate with the state for better pay and benefits; a right we currently don’t have. As it is, we get paid the bare minimum after the money goes through the state and system. It’s mind boggling how much our employers make and we don’t get any benefits or decent wages. A union would change that.

Rosalie Rutherford, Bovey

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Home Care Workers Making Headlines

Home Care Workers in the News

After a successful lobby day and rally, the media coverage of home care workers’ efforts and the public support of numerous members of the legislature has just kept rolling in. Check out recent media hits, op-eds and LTEs by workers below.

Home health care workers deserve right to unionize, Post-Bulletin, Letter to the editor by home care worker Betty Cadveldt | February 21, 2013

Personal care givers hope to vote on unionizing, WCCO-TV, February 20, 2013 | By Pat Kessler

Service workers union’s goals get Dayton, leaders support, Star Tribune, February 20, 2013 | By: Rachel Stassen-Berger
More clips after the break

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Home Care Worker Voice: Sumer Spika

“Forming a union would give us a voice. If we had better pay and benefits, people would stay in this job,” says Sumer Spika, a home care worker in Saint Paul, MN.

When she first started work as a home care worker, Sumer was offered benefits like health insurance and vacation time. But over the past four years, her pay has been cut, her vacation time taken away and the health insurance offered is minimal. She no longer has the option of taking a day off because she can’t afford to lose the pay. When she recently gave birth to her new baby boy, she was only able to take one week off work after having a C-section.

Sumer and thousands of other home care workers like her across the state know we need to make home care jobs better jobs–and that is why they want the choice to be able to form a union. Stand with them.

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