SEIU Healthcare Minnesota is working with home care providers who wish to organize--an effort that's being met with some push back, as Rachel Stassen-Berger reports in Organized labor agenda gains steam with turn in Minnesota Capitol politics.
Adding to the voices asking for a change in state law to grant collective organizing rights to home care workers? Letters to Greater Minnesota newspaper editors. Most recently, Linda Wilcox wrote in Home care workers at the Brainerd Dispatch:
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. . . .
. . .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.
Check out the free-wheeling discussion in the comments section. In the Grand Rapids Herald-Review, Rosalie Rutherford of Bovey writes in A home care worker’s union would benefit many:
. . .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.
Down in the Rochester Post Bulletin, Betty Cadveldt writes from the client's point of view in Home health care workers deserve right to unionize:
Almost 23 years ago, my daughter and I were in a car accident, and I have been a quadriplegic since.
Life has been challenging but rewarding, and thanks to home care workers, I have been able to live life independently and in an apartment with my daughter. Our lives were able to resume.
I resumed my college career and graduated, and my daughter is now working two jobs and pursuing her master's degree! I thank God for giving me a supportive and loving family. Without them, I don't think I would have made it this far.
Since my injury, my mother has helped care for me as my overnight home care worker. However, having my mom as my home care worker is not enough, and many good home care workers I've had leave the profession once a better job comes along. They are paid low wages and receive no benefits.
Minnesota faces a looming crisis, as there won't be enough home care workers to look after our loved ones. Home care workers deserve the right to form a union, a right they don't have. Increased wages and benefits would help attract and keep qualified and highly motivated individuals for this type of work. Also, it will allow for more training opportunities for home care workers so we can receive the best possible care.
In February, Pine City's Tina Rutledge wrote the Pioneer in Let home care workers form union:
. . .Caring for family members with disabilities at home, rather than sending them to an expensive institution, is a priority. But that requires hiring a home care worker to provide direct support or giving up a career to do it. As a parent of four children who were born with special needs, I have seen both sides of the work. I’ve provided support services for my children as well as other families. I was fortunate enough to take advantage of training opportunities, but most of those opportunities no longer exist for new workers. I now rely on home care workers from outside our home to care for my children, and I have no idea how much training, if any, they’ve received. The thought of leaving my child with an untrained home care worker scares me.
Allowing home care workers to come together to form a union means we will have the opportunity to gain access to training and education opportunities, reduce turnover and enhance the overall quality of the people taking care of those who wish to remain independent in their homes. . . .
The outcome? A stable workforce and improved quality of care for our family members who need support services. Isn’t that what you would want if your life suddenly changed?
In Home-care workers deserve the right to organize, Felicia Boclair of Duluth tells readers of the News Tribune:
In Minnesota right now there are more than 10,000 people who provide direct support for seniors and people with disabilities in their homes. These home-care workers allow seniors to retire with dignity and stay in their homes; they allow people with disabilities to continue living independently.
I am one of these workers. Before I injured my knees last summer, I had eight clients and worked full time. One of my clients was my very own daughter, who is a vulnerable adult. By November, my knees required surgery, and I’m now unable to care for my clients, including my daughter. I have no worker’s compensation and no health insurance. . . .
. . .We do not have the right to negotiate with the state for better working conditions and better pay — even though the state provides the money for home-care workers and sets the rates.
Teachers have the right to organize. Nurses have the right to organize. The work that home-care workers do isn’t any more important than the work of teachers or nurses; but it isn’t less important, either. Home-care workers should have the same right that teachers and nurses have: the right to form a union if they choose.
In Hibbing, Misty Waldron writes of Homecare workers in crisis:
I’m a part-time homecare worker and a full time student. I care for my mother about 20 hours a week, providing behavioral services and physical assistance.
Without the support services I provide, my mother would have to rely on an expensive institutionalized level of care, which would hinder her independence and quality of life. If my wages are to continually be cut, I would need to get a job elsewhere, and I would not have the time to attend school, work and assist my mother with her needs.
Homecare workers do valuable work in our society, but it often goes unnoticed. Cuts to these services not only hurt the people receiving support, but also the people who provide it. . . .
Will the legislature heed these voices? Or listen to those who frame the question solely in terms how they perceive unions as the adversary--in this case, the great purple satan, rather than working people coming together?
The bills themselves will be heard in a second round of committee hearings next week.
Photo: They're low-paid, under-appreciated, and coming to the Capitol again on March 21 to show their support for passing the Home Care Bill. Learn more about the event via Facebook.
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