Tentative contract agreement gives Minnesota home care workers a 15 percent raise

A woman helps another put on a coat.
Debra Howze, left, helps her client Polly Mann put on a sweater inside of Mann's Minneapolis apartment on Dec. 15.
Evan Frost | MPR News 2020

Home care workers in Minnesota who are members of the Service Employees International Union will vote on a tentative contract agreement that increases base pay by $2 per hour, increases paid time off and provides funding for worker training.

Union officials said the agreement was struck early Saturday after a marathon 18-hour bargaining session with state officials.

“While we may not have gotten everything that we had hoped to get, we came out with a really good contract, that's going to help a lot of people. That is a really great feeling,” said Dawn Burnfin, a member of the SEIU bargaining committee and a home care worker in Chisholm, Minn.

She said more than 20,000 workers across the state will vote on the tentative contract over the next two weeks.

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This is the fourth union contract since Minnesota home care workers voted to unionize in 2014, and Burnfin said the 15 percent pay increase is significant for workers in a traditionally low-paying profession.

“Many people who do this job still qualify for state assistance for food stamps, Medicaid, and a lot of other things, because we're still below the poverty level,” she said.

The tentative contract also increases paid time off and adds two floating holidays for workers.

Burnfin said she hopes the pay increase will attract more workers to a chronically understaffed industry.

“Hopefully with this wage increase, that will get more people into the field, and we will be able to help take care of that crisis, so people will be able to actually use their paid time off,” she said.

A 2019 contract increased workers’ base pay from $12 to $13.25 per hour.

If approved and funded by the state legislature and signed by Gov. Tim Walz, the new contract would take effect in July 2021. Base pay for workers would increase from $13.25 to $14.40 in October and to $15.25 in July 2022.

Walz on Saturday tweeted in support of the agreement, saying that home care workers have been “fighting on the frontlines of this pandemic — they deserve to be recognized for it.”