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Home Care Contract With Historic Wage Increases Passes Minnesota Legislature and Heads to Gov. Walz’s Desk

May 22, 2023

Deal that was reached in January is ratified and funded by House and Senate following conference committee, bringing multiple big gains, including huge 25-48% wage increases, that will help address the state’s severe shortage of care workers

SAINT PAUL — A contract that will dramatically improve the lives of tens of thousands of Minnesotans was funded & ratified today as the House and Senate both voted to pass the Human Services Finance bill off their respective floors after finalizing details in conference committee in previous days. The bill now goes to Gov. Walz’s desk to be signed into law.

The Tentative Agreement was reached in January between Governor Walz’s administration and a SEIU Healthcare MN & IA bargaining team of home care workers and clients who negotiated for the contract that covers over 20,000 care workers across the state. The workers ratified the Tentative Agreement in January and the contract had to be passed as part of the budget process to secure Medicaid matching funds from the federal government. It will go into effect on July 1st.

Felicia Johnson, a mother and caregiver for her autistic 18 year old daughter, shared what this means to families across the state:

"Despite the critical work we do, this job has been underpaid for so long. Over the 11 years I've done this work, at times I haven’t had enough money to do basic things like paying my bills or rent. Our work is rewarding, but we all know that our needs can't be paid with smiles and thank yous. I’ve had my gas turned off. I had to tell my daughter we were practicing camping because we were bar-b-que-ing every day. Having the raises in this contract will mean we can afford to buy things other people take for granted. It means paying rent and groceries and medicine and maybe even taking our kids to McDonalds sometimes. Home care workers are a key part of so many people's lives, but we need to be able to care for ourselves so we can care for others. I’m thankful for the House and Senate for passing this contract and excited for Gov. Walz to sign it so we can change the lives of tens of thousands of Minnesotans!"

The deal is the workers’ fifth union contract. The agreement includes a historic wage increase, raising wages for new workers from $15.25 to $20 for all home care workers by 2025. The agreement also takes important steps towards professionalizing home care in Minnesota, establishing a wage scale to provide higher pay based on experience in the field for the first time and ensuring that all new caregivers entering the workforce receive a high-quality orientation. Those caregivers who have been working in these programs for many years will jump not just to $20/hour but to as high as $22.50, as a result of the new wage scale.

Brittanie Hernandez-Wilson, a home care client and the Equity and Justice Director at The Arc Minnesota, shared what this contract means for Minnesotans who utilize home care worker across the state:

'I'm thrilled about the new home care contract in Minnesota! This historic agreement is a game changer for over 20,000 care workers and clients in our state. These changes will benefit the entire industry. This contract sends a clear message that we value the work of our caregivers and believe in compensating them fairly for their hard work and expertise. Home care workers have been a lifeline for many in the Disability and elder communities, especially for multiply marginalized folks. Quality care brings immense value to our communities, and it's heartening to see that the new contract includes a wage scale that rewards experience. This is a significant step towards retaining experienced caregivers in the field and provides much needed incentives to make this industry viable. But it's not just about the money. The relationship between home care workers and clients is one of trust and intimacy. We rely on each other, and this agreement acknowledges that by improving the conditions for everyone involved. I believe this contract will help ensure that clients can utilize home care services to maintain their quality of life and independence in our communities. I want to give a shout out to all the amazing home care workers, clients, family, friends, SEIU, our legislature, and Governor Tim Walz for making this happen. Our collective efforts have made a significant impact on the home care industry in Minnesota, and I'm excited to see the positive changes this agreement will bring!"

Highlights include:

Barbara Kern, a home care worker for four years who lives in Virginia, MN, shared what this contract will mean for care workers and clients in Greater Minnesota:

“Rural care workers and clients are facing huge challenges making sure everyone can get the care they need. Living in a rural area, I travel long distances on one of the most dangerous roads to get to my client (especially winter), many people won’t do this challenging work for the current pay. The pay & retention bonus will help us feel more appreciated. We are not “just PCA workers”, we are critical parts of people’s lives. Sometimes home care workers are the only people our clients see or interact with every day, and we provide so much more than just the care. Seeing our clients succeed by reaching and achieving new goals feels amazing. Thankfully there are many of us who do the PCA work even though we know there’s better pay around the corner for other various jobs. I’m very excited for the increase in pay, the boost in training and the retention bonus to happen. So many people don’t understand the amazing value we bring to our clients. These gains are important, especially with the inflation we have all faced. We’re trying to make the world a better place and make our clients happy. When wages go up, I’m inclined to believe that more people will want to do this important work as a career. This contract will be a huge step towards making this work a career instead of 'just a job', which is going to help both workers and our clients.”

The bargaining team — made up of home care workers, clients and family caregivers elected by their peers — negotiated with the state over three months to reach this agreement. Even before COVID, thousands of families across Minnesota were struggling with a care crisis causing seniors and people with disabilities to be unable to find workers to provide the care they need to stay safely in their homes.

SEIU Healthcare Minnesota & Iowa unites nearly 50,000 healthcare and long-term care workers in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and home care throughout Minnesota and Iowa.