The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

July 10, 2014

Home health care workers seek to unionize

Union vote to be largest in state history

ST. PAUL — Home health care workers in Minnesota are moving ahead with a union election, even though the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last week that similar workers don't have to pay any union dues.

Union organizers presented a petition to state officials Tuesday in St. Paul, and said it will trigger the largest vote of its kind in state history.

State legislation in 2013 passed a bill that allows a unionization vote by workers who provide care to elderly and disabled people in their homes. There are more than 26,000 workers who are eligible to vote, and the 9,000 cards delivered to the state Bureau of Mediation Services exceeded the 30 percent required to trigger an election.

At a rally outside the bureau office, Tyler Frank said the high turnover rate among personal care assistants means he has to spend more time caring for his partner Nicole.

"When home care workers finally receive the attention and the respect we deserve for the difficult work we do, when our jobs are finally seen as the careers that they are, Nicole can finally get the reliable help that she needs to thrive," said Frank, of Minneapolis. "And with that steady help, I'll no longer need to choose between my goals and hers."

Frank and other union advocates are seeking representation from the Service Employees International Union, which began its organization effort shortly after the 2012 election. Rosemary Van Vickle, of Crosby, said she wants basic benefits such as fair pay, sick days and paid time off.

"Now I and other home care workers in Crosby have decided that we are going to fight to make home care jobs good jobs, and make sure everyone across the whole state is able to get care in their home," Vickle said.

Organizers delivered their petition a week after the U.S. Supreme Court said similar workers in Illinois cannot be forced to pay full or partial union dues if they don't want to join, because they are not full-fledged public employees.

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