After Republicans filibustered through the night and past dawn, the Senate passed landmark legislation Wednesday extending collective bargaining rights to 9,000 family child-care providers and 12,000 home health-care workers.
The final vote – 35-32 – came after 17 straight hours of stall tactics, 29 amendments, and nearly a half-dozen attempts to torpedo the legislation through parliamentary tricks and fights over rules enforcement. If the legislation passes the House, Governor Dayton has promised to sign it.
Senate deliberation – which began about 3:15 p.m. Tuesday and ended at 8:15 Wednesday morning – set a record for length. The Republican filibuster to stop the bill lasted twice as long as Senate Republicans fought legislation that legalized same-sex marriage and raised the minimum wage – combined.
The bill’s chief sponsor, Sen. Sandy Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, vigorously promoted the goals of the bill to improve the future for providers, children and working parents.
Workers who provide child care and home health care rallied at the Capitol Wednesday and several visited lawmakers prior to the vote.
“I am so excited to see the Senate pass such an important bill to my family and me,” said Darleen Henry, a 23-year-old home care worker from Rosemount who cares for her mom. “Republicans stalled all night, but I’m happy the Senate ultimately granted me the same rights enjoyed by other workers to simply choose whether or not we want to join together in a union.”
Ziggy Norberg and his mom, Karen Urman, joined Henry in celebration. Norberg was born with Spina Bifida. At 19, he now attends community college and is a leader in his community, something he says is possible because of his mom, who works for him as his personal care attendant.
“I am so fortunate to have my mom, because there are fewer and fewer people entering this field due to low wages and a lack of benefits,” said Norberg. “My mom shouldn’t have to struggle to get by because she is a home care worker. It would be nice if along with the hard, round-the-clock work of being a home care worker, my mom could enjoy the benefits and fair wages of a real career.”
Several anti-worker amendments were voted down during the debate, including measures that would have added so-called “Right to Work” provisions to the legislation, dictated the level of union dues and added roadblocks to union organizing.
The House is expected to take up the Senate version of the bill later this week.
If passed, the bill would allow Minnesota to follow in footsteps of several other states which have passed similar legislation. 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.
“We just want the same rights as other workers,” said Urman. “Nurses and teachers have the right to form a union. The work we do isn’t more important, but it certainly isn’t less important. We should have the same right to choose for ourselves if we want to join together in a union.”
Child care workers are seeking to join AFSCME Council 5, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Home health care workers are seeking to join SEIU, Service Employees International Union, Healthcare Minnesota.