Home care workers push Walz to address ‘crisis of care’ with higher wages

Home care workers and their clients plan to rally at the Capitol Thursday, Jan. 31, at 11 a.m.

Home care workers in Minnesota are fighting for a $15 wage floor in ongoing contract negotiations with the state, and fighting alongside them are the clients and families they serve.

The connection is obvious to Lauren Thompson, a Minnesotan with cerebral palsy, who receives in-home care thanks to state and federal subsidies.

“Think about how you’d want to be cared for and the people you want taking care of you,” Thompson said. “A minimum wage of at least $15 an hour would start to create a stronger workforce. It would mean that good PCAs would be able to keep working.”

Thompson is part of a unique team bargaining on behalf of nearly 30,000 home care workers statewide. It not only includes members of the workers’ union, SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, but also the seniors, people with disabilities and families who rely on personal care to remain in their homes.

The united front reflects growing concern over a shortage of home care workers – there are currently 8,000 unfilled positions statewide, according to the union – at a time when the state’s population is aging.

The nonprofit research initiative Minnesota Compass projects the number of Minnesotans 65 and older will exceed those ages 5 to 17 for the first time ever “around 2020,” and nearly a third of people 65 and older have a disability.

The confluence of workforce and demographic trends amounts to a crisis, home care workers and clients warn. And addressing it starts with raising wages in the industry.

That’s the message they will deliver to lawmakers during a rally planned next Thursday, Jan. 31, at 11 a.m. in the Capitol. [Click here to RSVP on Facebook.]

“We have a huge shortage of care workers in south central Minnesota where I live,” said Dalene Annen, a home care worker from Winnebago. “If we can win at least a $15 minimum wage in our new contract, it will give good people an incentive to be home care workers instead of choosing to work at the grocery store or fast food because they pay more.”

Annen and other workers hope one lawmaker, in particular, is paying attention next Thursday.

On the campaign trail, Gov. Tim Walz backed a $15 minimum wage for all workers. His administration’s contract negotiations with home care workers offer an early opportunity to back up talk with action.

In addition, home care workers say getting to $15 now would ensure their pay remains in step with rising minimum-wage rates in Minneapolis and St. Paul, where thousands of them work.

The current wage floor for home care workers in Minnesota is $12, and it’s risen steadily since workers formed a union with SEIU in 2014. The union also has won paid time off, holiday pay and increased training opportunities since organizing.

Yet in spite of those gains, too many Minnesotans still are not getting the care they need to stay in their homes. Patsy Gibson, a home care worker from Bloomington, hopes this is the year things change. 

“We are losing valuable people in such an important profession,” Gibson said. “I really hope our government is aware of what is happening… When we say we can only afford to pay poverty wages it means people’s lives are at stake. We need our governor and elected officials to help us get to a decent living wage.”

SEIU anticipates reaching a tentative agreement with the state’s Department of Management and Budget on a new two-year contract in the coming weeks, so that it can be included in Walz’s first two-year budget proposal, expected early next month.

Advertisements

Trackbacks

  1. […] Home care workers statewide last month included the elderly and disabled people they serve on their negotiating team in talks with the State of Minnesota, forming a united front to advocate for investments in a workforce that is failing to keep up with demand. […]

%d bloggers like this: