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.
Home care workers, also known as personal care attendants, are the people who provide support services for seniors and people living with disabilities in their homes. Right now, we face a looming workforce crisis in our public home care programs. As the Baby Boomers age and the need for home-care services increases, there will be a “care gap” of tens of thousands of home care workers over the course of this decade.
Workers in consumer-directed programs who work directly for their clients have no right to form a union, even though funding for home care workers in public programs comes from the state, which also sets reimbursement rates.
The annual turnover rate for workers in Minnesota is roughly 50 percent, due to low wages and no benefits or training opportunities. We must improve wages and working conditions to attract and retain more workers.
Allowing workers to form a union will stabilize the workforce, improve the quality of care and save the state money. Home care workers make it possible for seniors and people with disabilities to live independently in their homes, rather than be forced to choose an expensive institution or nursing home at a cost to the state.
Child care providers, meanwhile, are with our children from sunup until sundown, providing our children with a healthy, safe and learning environment. They give parents the peace of mind knowing their child is in good hands so they can focus on their own jobs.
However, for many families, child care is becoming less and less affordable. Many parents rely on the Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) to help pay for child care in order for them to go to work. Subsidy rates, however, remain stagnant and that puts a financial squeeze on parents and providers. Simply put, parents can’t afford to pay more and providers can’t afford to work for less.
The need for affordable, accessible, quality child care cannot be underestimated. If providers are allowed to collectively bargain with the state for better CCAP rates, they will be able to continue to provide quality care parents can afford. Parents deserve to have the peace of mind knowing their child is receiving the highest quality of care. Providers deserve all the resources available so they can do their jobs even better.
Both these workforces are dominated by women, who have often had their work devalued as simply “women’s work.” These bills would allow them to finally have a voice in critical decisions that affect their professions.
Teachers and nurses have the right to form a union. The work these workers do isn’t any more important, but it certainly isn’t any less important, than the work teachers and nurses do.
These workers deserve the same right as all workers – the right to choose to form a union. These bills would give workers a voice and allow them to have a say in the programs that affect their professions and the lives of those they care for. To be clear, this bill would give eligible home care workers and child care providers the right to vote to have a union and if the majority vote for unionization they would have the right to collectively bargain.
We need to make sure legislators know that union members across the state support granting these workers collective bargaining rights. Please reach out to your elected leader and let them know you stand in solidarity with these workers.