After a debate that took nearly 10 hours over three legislative days, the Minnesota House of Representatives approved historic legislation Monday that extends collective-bargaining rights to family child-care providers and personal care attendants.

The legislation passed 68-66 after surviving 20 Republican amendments trying to undermine it. On Saturday, the Senate approved it 35-32. Governor Mark Dayton promises to sign the bill.

With the victory – which was eight years in the making – about 11,000 family child-care providers and 12,000 personal care attendants gain the ability to vote on forming a union. The law covers licensed and unlicensed providers who care for children in the state’s basic sliding fee program.

Since the House put the bill on the calendar for Saturday, workers have been camped outside the chambers to show their support.

More than 50 hours after first arriving at the Capitol Saturday afternoon, Sumer Spika joined a tired, but elated group of home care workers and recipients in celebration.

“This is incredible,” said Spika, a home care worker from St. Paul. “Home care workers deserve the same right as other workers to form a union and now, because of this bill, we will soon have that right to choose for ourselves if we want a union.”

“This bill is about ensuring the basic rights of undervalued workers to choose for themselves if they want to collectively bargain for better wages,” said Rep. Michael Nelson, the chief author of the House version of the bill. “These workers, who are predominately women, now have an opportunity to bargain for improvements in their lives and the lives of the children, seniors and people with disabilities they serve. No longer will our state be able to dismiss the immense value of their work.”

Other states have passed similar legislation allowing self-directed PCAs to organize – those states have seen a reduction in worker turnover and a stabilization of the workforce. Workers and participants there have also seen an increased access to services, better wages and benefits, the creation of registry and referral services, greater access to training and a voice on the job.

A study from the Paraprofessional Healthcare Institute (PHI), the nation’s leading authority on the direct care workforce, released a report in January which showed a looming workforce crisis and a care gap of thousands of workers in Minnesota. A union will allow Minnesota to retain and attract enough workers to care for the aging population in their homes and avoid a massive strain on long-term care facilities.

This article is adapted from information posted on the AFSCME Council 5 and SEIU Healthcare Minnesota websites.

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