The activists who successfully sparked a union election for home health care workers in Minnesota must now pivot toward an August vote on actually forming a collective bargaining unit, according to a timeline released by the state Bureau of Mediation Services.
Mail ballots will start going out to roughly 26,000 home health care workers on Aug. 1, and they will have until Aug. 25 to respond. Vote counting is set to begin the following day. If the election vote is successful, those workers, also called personal care attendants (PCAs), would be organized by the state branch of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).
Organizers like Sumer Spika, who is already in the field, are busy building on support among like-minded activists who contributed during a 9,000-signature petition drive that initially set the full union election in motion.
Current conditions for personal care attendants and other health workers are unfair to workers, said Spika, who recounted the brief break from work she got after the birth of her child two years ago.
“I took a week off of work after having a C-section, then had to go back to work,” she said. “Major surgery, newborn baby and back to work in a week.”
“Nobody should, in my opinion, work a full time job and not be able to provide for their family,” Spika said. “It would allow us to be able to go to the state and to bargain with them for better wages, for benefits, for all of these things we don’t get.”
Spika said activists have attended rallies, organized door knocking and made phone calls to advance the vote. She also claimed organizers and advocates have not experienced many negative or antagonistic responses from individuals.
“I honestly haven’t gotten a lot of that, except from legislators,” Spika said.
Retiring House Rep. Kurt Zellers, a Republican candidate vying to take on Gov. Mark Dayton in the fall, is one of such legislators.
“Forcing personal care attendants – those who often care for ill, elderly or disabled family members and close friends – into a government union for the sole purpose of extracting more money out of them to fill the coffers of Governor Dayton’s political cronies has been part of a futile effort of his that I have fought for years,” Zellers said in a statement last week.