SAINT PAUL — Home care workers and clients with SEIU Healthcare Minnesota and Iowa reached a Tentative Agreement (TA) with the State of Minnesota early Friday morning.
The deal, which covers over 20,000 care workers across the state, came after months of bargaining for their fifth union contract, and at the end of a 20-hour final day of negotiations. 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.
Tavona Johnson, a home care worker on the bargaining team from Austin, shared her feelings about the tentative agreement as someone who has done this critical work for many different clients over 20 years:
“Winning a wage scale makes me feel recognized, seen, heard, and shown some respect and appreciation for my chosen profession as a homecare worker by compensating me for my dedication in a way that is meaningful and can actually cause positive change in my life. I feel that together with the big wage floor increase, this new wage scale means that home care workers will be able to protect our own dignity and integrity by having the option to work our way out of poverty and maybe not having to work multiple jobs any more to make ends meet. Governor Walz deserves a huge amount of credit for this change. Ever since he spent a day doing home care work a couple years ago, he has shown how much he cares about and values the services home care workers provide.These changes mean we will have more quality time to spend with loved ones and more ability to support our families financially in a dignified way.”
The full details of the tentative agreement are currently being shared with members who will vote on whether to approve it in the coming weeks, but highlights include:
- A $3.75 (25%) wage increase to $19 per hour for all workers in 2024
- An additional increase to $20 per hour (a 31% increase over the current wage floor) in 2025
- The establishment for the first time of a wage scale rewarding home care workers for their years of experience, bringing long-time caregivers up to as much as $22.50 per hour (a 48% increase over the current wage floor) in 2025
- A one-time $1,000 retention bonus for any worker who has provided home care for six months or longer, beginning in July 2023
- A long overdue professionalization of the home care workforce through the establishment of an orientation program for new caregivers
Lauren Thompson, a home care client who was on the bargaining team, shared the importance of this contract for people who rely on home care services to live their lives:
“As someone who receives home care services, I am relieved and hopeful with this deal. I have been part of previous bargaining teams and the wage increases are at a level we have never seen before. That speaks to the great progress in understanding the value of this work and what it means to disabled people and our communities that we’ve been able to make over the last few years. You can see that more than ever in the progress we’ve made in this contract and the investments the state is choosing to make in this critical work that supports families in every Minnesota town and community.”
If the Tentative Agreement is ratified by Union members, it will then go to the legislature for their approval and funding. The final step would be having an appropriations bill signed by Governor Walz and go into effect July 1, 2023. Legislators now have the opportunity to review the terms of the proposed agreement and vote on whether to ratify it.
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.
Kerry Adelmann, a family caregiver who has cared for her disabled son for the last seven years, shared why this is so important to families across the state who have loved ones needing care:
“One of the things that is so important to me is knowing I can hand off this work to someone who will be caring for my son when I can’t do the work any longer. This isn’t just a job for so many of us. Raising wages and making this a real career gives me hope that I’ll be able to get help and more people will want to do this important work. This can and should be a beautiful career, but that has gotten lost because of the miserably low wages. The changes in this agreement will open the door to ensuring you can earn a living while expressing love and compassion for other people by doing care work. It's a relief to me, as a mother and a family caregiver, that we now have a path to bring other people in who choose to do this work. These gains are worth all the hard work we had to put in to get here.”
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.