Minnesota home care workers celebrated Tuesday after voting to unionize in what is widely considered the largest election of its kind in state history.
Of 5,872 ballots cast, 60 percent of home care providers voted to organize the Service Employees International Union. Home care providers and their clients erupted in cheers when the results were announced at the AFL-CIO’s labor pavilion Minnesota State Fairgrounds.
“We have been working towards this day for many years, we’ve seen the stories of the low pay, lack of benefits and training and the low pay facing home care workers,” said home care provider Sumer Spika of St. Paul, who helped organize the effort. “We know what this does to Minnesota families and we know that it needs to change.”
Of nearly 27,000 eligible voters, only 21 percent cast ballots. Opponents say the number who did not vote ‘Yes’ is indicative of the number of providers who did not want a union, and vow to continue a legal challenge to the unionization.
“No one is opposing the right of individual homecare providers to freely associate with the union if they so choose, but the issue raised in this legal challenge is whether those individuals who don’t want anything to do with the union can have it imposed on them.” Said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation in the wake of the election results. That’s why the providers’ legal challenge to this forced unionism scheme will go forward.”
The vote comes after nine home health care workers sued last month to block the union vote, but a federal judge ruled last week that the plaintiffs could not sue until workers elected to unionize.
Barring the legal challenge, the home care providers’ union will now begin bargaining with the state.
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