Last week, a lawyer for a corporate special interest group wrote about her organization’s efforts to upend the union working to address Minnesota’s home care crisis (“Many caregivers want out of union’s iron grip,” Nov. 18). She said a lot of awful-seeming things about the union. What she never mentioned was any personal experience with home care, or with the thousands of people with disabilities and seniors all across the state who depend on it. She appears to get paid to attack unions — no matter what the cost for families like mine.
For us, home care isn’t something we would ever use for political gain. It matters too much to the people we love.
I have been caring for my 45-year-old son his entire life. Fifteen years ago, he suffered a massive brain hemorrhage leaving him a total care patient — 24 hours a day. I thank the caregivers who have taken over his care, as I am no longer capable of doing it myself.
These devoted workers are underappreciated, overworked, and severely underpaid. They help Scott retain his dignity and place in the world. But because of the care crisis, we simply can’t find enough good people to work for Scott.
Thousands of other families in Minnesota are facing the same challenges we are: as Star Tribune reporters have documented, there is a severe shortage of home care workers. With the baby-boom generation aging, the crisis will only become more acute.
What can be done? The only serious effort underway to resolve this crisis is the home care union’s current negotiations with the state. I should know: I was invited by the workers to join their bargaining team, representing parents of adult children with disabilities.
It is only because of the union’s first contract, which went into effect in 2015, that home care workers finally can take paid time off, have an $11-an-hour wage floor, and are able to win back pay when (as happens too often) they are not paid for hours they’ve worked.
In negotiating the second contract right now, we are pushing for a truly livable wage — the only thing that can attract enough workers to meet clients’ needs — and better training and preparation for caregivers.
The lawyers attacking the home care union complain about the harm being done to workers who don’t support the union. They fail to mention that because of a Supreme Court ruling, anti-union home care workers don’t pay a cent in union dues. They aren’t “forced” to do anything but reap, for free, the benefits won for them by other workers.
Nine in 10 home care workers are women. Disproportionately, they are women of color. The special-interest campaign against the home care workers’ union would take power away from these women, when they are just beginning to wield it — and when families like mine most need them to succeed, to keep our loved ones at home, not in institutions.
One of Scott’s workers recently broke her foot, so we are back to scrambling. I put up ads everywhere. I’m calling former workers and begging them to return. Meanwhile, my husband and I are covering the open shifts ourselves. Scott is our son, so we are blessed to do this for him, but my husband and I are 71. Right now we can take care of him, but it’s not sustainable.
Without qualified people working here, Scott would die. He has been on the edge between life and death many times. He is not physically capable of doing the things he wants to do, but that’s no reason for him to die. His body is healthy and his heart is strong. He is a vibrant and valuable person.
This affects all of us. You never know when you might need home care. The population is aging, and disability can happen to anyone.
We are in a care crisis. The home care workers’ union is fighting for solutions. Lawyers who know nothing about families like mine are wasting a lot of time and energy fighting to stop that progress, because of their political beliefs about unions.
But we won’t let them stop us. The lives of our loved ones, who depend every day on home care workers, are too important.
Delores Flynn, of Roseville, is retired from the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office.