SAINT PAUL – Minnesota nursing home workers celebrated the passage of the Nursing Home Workforce Standards Board off the House and Senate floors as part of the Jobs and Labor Omnibus Finance Bill. The Board is the first of its kind in the country that covers nursing home workers and has the authority to set standards like pay and benefits. Supporters have pushed for it to raise labor standards in the nursing home industry to help address the staffing crisis. It now goes to Gov. Walz’s desk to be signed into law.
The board will bring together three government representatives, three employer representatives, and three worker representatives and has the power to set minimum labor standards, like a minimum wage, for the nursing home industry to help strengthen the industry for residents and workers.
Teresa Bates, a Housekeeper at the Estates of Roseville Care Center and member of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota & Iowa who testified multiple times in support of the Standards Board, shared her excitement:
“I have worked in long term care for almost 25 years and short staffing has never been worse. At my facility, we have two housekeepers to do the work that four people used to do. Two people to clean a whole building of 120 residents. Last year, I worked 23 straight days. We recently hired a woman who loved the job and was really helping, but she quit to take a job with the Post Office because they paid more than the $14.60 an hour she was making here. The problem is not just a lack of funding, it’s that enough isn’t going to recruit and retain workers who actually do this challenging work. I’m so excited because this Board will have the power to set standards and finally fix this industry to help families across the state. It’s time we bring everyone together to build something that gives our seniors the care they deserve.”
The bill was championed in the legislature by lead authors Rep. Esther Agbaje and Sen. Sandy Pappas, both of whom praised the bill's passage off the House and Senate floors as huge steps for the nursing home industry.
"Throughout this process, I've heard repeatedly about the immense challenges Minnesota nursing home workers are facing. This work has been underpaid and disrespected for far too long, which over time has resulted in the staffing crisis we are facing today,” said Senator Sandy Pappas, who was the author of the Senate version of the bill. “I'm proud to have authored the Nursing Home Workforce Standards Board that will bring together workers, owners and government officials who will have the power to make the long overdue changes needed to fix our nursing home industry and ensure seniors across the state can get the high quality care they need and deserve."
“Our senior home residents and elder loved ones deserve the utmost dignified care as they are aging. We must improve the working conditions for our dedicated frontline nursing home professionals as they care for some of our most vulnerable communities,” said House author Rep. Esther Agbaje. “I am proud we are establishing a Nursing Home Workforce Standards Board that will help raise wages and improve working conditions, thereby addressing the main drivers of the staffing crisis in nursing homes across the state.”
Katie Kooiker, a CNA in the Twin Cities who has worked in the industry for nine years, shared her excitement around the bill:
“It's brought me so much joy to be a caregiver to your grandparents, parents, siblings, friends and neighbors.What makes me the most proud of this field is my coworkers who tough it out by my side. It's obvious the only thing holding these broken structures together is the love we have for our communities. But we're routinely pushed past our breaking points with far more work than we have time to get done. No one can blame the many who've walked away for easier jobs with higher wages. It doesn't have to be miserable just because we've accepted that as the way it is. These could and should be good jobs for Minnesotans. The devastating damages that happen when we don't have the support we need are far more costly. I would like to thank our state for creating this Board to give caregivers a place to voice our concerns and the power to take action. I have hope that it may give us some much needed solutions to our greatest challenges. In the future I hope we approach this topic by remembering that a large percentage of us are likely to become vulnerable adults someday too. I believe we have the resources to take good care of each other.”
SEIU Healthcare Minnesota & Iowa unites nearly 50,000 healthcare and long-term care workers in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and home care throughout the state of Minnesota.