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In First Ever Full Ruling, Minnesota’s Public Employment Relations Board Sides With Home Care Workers Denied Their Right To Bargain Over COVID Pay

November 9, 2021

Ruling Requires Bargaining Between State and Home Care Union over Back Pay for Home Care Workers -- Hundreds of Workers Never Saw Pay Increase Required by State Legislature

SAINT PAUL – In the first ever full ruling by the Minnesota Public Employment Relations Board (PERB), the PERB ruled in favor of home care workers represented by SEIU Healthcare Minnesota (SEIU) in their dispute with the State. Through SEIU, the home care workers argued that the temporary emergency COVID increase for home care workers authorized by the State Legislature last year should have triggered negotiations between the State and the home care workers’ union over how much additional pay workers receive and the remedies if the workers do not receive the additional pay.

In the absence of collective bargaining and a resulting enforceable agreement about the additional pay, several hundred homecare workers still have not received the pay increase a full year after the State Legislature adopted the law requiring the pay increase and the law went into effect with Governor Tim Walz’s signature. The treatment of these essential workers is especially striking given they have continued to provide life-sustaining and even life-saving care to seniors and people with disabilities on the frontlines of the pandemic.

Marslion Eleby, a longtime home care worker in Minneapolis, who has still received none of the required hazard pay discussed above, responded to the news of the workers’ victory in the PERB decision:

"I feel so good. What I did in testifying at the PERB hearing about my experience really accomplished something. Not just for me but for hundreds of other home care workers like me on the front lines of the pandemic."

When Eleby asked her PCA agency multiple times about when she will receive the hazard pay required by the State, the agency told her "We don't do that." Eventually, says Eleby, "I just stopped asking. Why bother, since they wouldn't even respond?" Now she is serving on SEIU's bargaining team to make sure every home care worker who was left out like her gets the full back pay award they deserve.

In the ruling, the PERB directs the State to meet and negotiate with the home care workers through their union, SEIU, about the correct distribution of the temporary emergency COVID funding increase in 2020 and to award full back pay to all home care workers who did not receive what they deserved.

SEIU Healthcare MN Executive Vice President Phillip Cryan commented:

“This ruling is an important victory for thousands of home care workers all across the state, who proved just how essential their work is when they continued going into their clients’ homes every day to provide needed care even during the worst days of the pandemic. State lawmakers recognized that heroic service and tried to express appreciation to home care workers in the form of a modest, temporary pay increase. But many workers got none of it. Now that the PERB has ruled, we look forward to bargaining with the State to make sure full back pay is awarded to every home care worker to whom it is owed. This victory for home care workers in the PERB’s first full ruling also shows just how important it is for our State to have a functioning, funded PERB. Prior to the PERB’s existence, the only way to address this sort of issue would have been through costly, lengthy, contentious litigation. The PERB provides a much more efficient and respectful way for workers’ and public-sector employers’ voices to be heard, and for reasonable decisions to be reached on questions that matter to Minnesotans.”

SEIU Healthcare Minnesota unites approximately 50,000 healthcare and long-term care workers in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and home care throughout the state of Minnesota.