The Potluck

Unionized home care workers win 31% raise in tentative agreement with Minnesota officials

By: - January 6, 2023 3:55 pm

Nora Clark helps her client, Scott Semo, shave. Photo by Max Nesterak/Minnesota Reformer.

Roughly 20,000 of Minnesota’s home care workers will see their biggest pay raise in history over the next two years, under a contract reached between the administration of Gov. Tim Walz and SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, the union representing the workers.

The home care workers help elderly and disabled people with daily tasks such as bathing and eating through a program funded by Medicaid and state subsidies.

Under the tentative agreement, the minimum wage will rise from $15.25 to $19 an hour in 2024 and $20 an hour in 2025. The $4.75 an hour raise over two years is more than double the largest raise workers have seen since unionizing in 2014.

The tentative agreement also establishes a wage scale for the first time, so veteran workers will earn as much as $22.50 an hour by 2025. Workers who have been a home care worker for at least six months in July 2023 will also receive a one-time $1,000 retention bonus.

“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,” said home care worker Tavona Johnson in a statement from SEIU announcing the agreement.

The tentative agreement must be approved by workers and the Legislature, which must also pass a spending bill to pay for the raises.

A tight labor market and soaring inflation has led employers to raise wages for low-wage workers at the fastest clip in decades — though not enough on average to offset inflation. Rising wages elsewhere in the labor market has worsened the shortage of home care workers, leading to tragic consequences as some clients don’t receive the care they need.

There were more than 15,000 vacancies for home health care jobs at the end of 2021, a 60% increase over 2020, according to the most recent state data.

Workers and employers say the median wage is too low to attract qualified candidates and hope the historic boost in pay will attract more workers.

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Max Nesterak
Max Nesterak

Max Nesterak is the deputy editor of the Reformer and reports on labor and housing. Previously, he was an associate producer for Minnesota Public Radio after a stint at NPR. He also co-founded the Behavioral Scientist and was a Fulbright Scholar to Berlin, Germany.