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Toward a More

Caring Minnesota
Executive Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3

Key Findings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .4

Recommendations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5

Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6

Part 1: The current situation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8

Part 2: What do we spend money on? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12

Part 3: Toward a more caring Minnesota . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17

Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21

Toward a More Caring Minnesota is a special report by SEIU Healthcare Minnesota and ISAIAH that examines
the historical context and causes of several interconnected problems facing Minnesota’s care infrastructure, and
offers a basic framework to develop policy to answer those problems.

Special thanks to all the people who have devoted so much time and energy to writing and refining this report.

SEIU Healthcare Minnesota unites more than 35,000 healthcare and long-term care workers in hospitals, clinics,
nursing homes, and home care throughout the state of Minnesota. Our union seeks to secure the American Dream
for all working people, including: a paycheck that supports a family, quality, affordable healthcare, a secure retire-
ment, and the freedom to form a union for a voice on the job.

ISAIAH is a faith-based coalition of more than 100 member congregations that lets communities in Minnesota
more effectively live out their faith in biblical justice and the common good. By uniting local congregations in a
large regional organization, ISAIAH strengthens the ability of people of faith to to address both local and regional
community issues, including sprawl, affordable housing, transportation, and racial inequity.
Executive Summary
Minnesotans have a long history of caring for each other, respecting elders and providing chil-
dren with opportunities to pursue their dreams. That legacy is at risk because Minnesota’s fal-
tering care infrastructure is being targeted for divestment by a greedy few who are distracting
Minnesotans from their wealth concentration agenda by dividing communities against each oth-
er — shaming and blaming people of color, new immigrants and Muslim Americans for the eco-
nomic struggles faced by families across the state.

Minnesotans have an opportunity to join together to make our state a place where every child,
elder, person with disabilities and care provider has what they need to live healthy, fulfilled lives.
We can build a system of care that is erected on Minnesota’s foundation of heroic altruism. One
that respects both the dignity of the individual and the unique bonds of family and community.
One that is universal, democratic, and just.

The first part of this report examines the history that has led us to our current situation. For
decades, the care infrastructure has excluded many: people of color, single mothers, and LGBTQ
people, in particular.

It is the job of elected officials to ensure that care infrastructure exists in our state. Doing so
will require the wealthiest Minnesotans to pay their fair share in taxes. A small but powerful
coalition led by the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce, the Freedom Club, and the Center of the
American Experiment opposes this course of action and lobbies for cuts in our current, already
underfunded care system. The ascendant faction within this coalition wants to secure for their
members an ever-tightening grip on public life in Minnesota by enacting policies to concentrate
wealth and by criminalizing what they consider immoral behavior. The second part of this report
will look at this coalition, their motivation, and how they divide Minnesotans to advance their
unpopular agenda.

Minnesotans are diverse. We are white, black, and brown. We are young and old. We are rural
and we are urban. We are rich, poor, and everything in between. We were born here and we
moved here from out-of-state and out-of-country. Solving the diverse problems with care we all
face will require a great deal of policy work and discussion in the years to come. While all the pol-
icy answers to ensure strong care infrastructure in our state are not yet clear, the final section of
this report outlines some of the most urgently-needed policy steps for elected officials to take to
begin to address the care crisis. This final section will also summarize some of the conversations
about care needs and solutions that have taken place over the last few months with thousands of
Minnesotans in St. Cloud, Northfield, Albert Lea, Austin, Mankato, St. Peter, Rochester, and the
Twin Cities.

Key Findings
■■ According to a recent survey, 68 percent of ■■ One of the most vocal and public-facing of these
Minnesotans supported a paid family leave organizations, the Center of the American
program. Even if it meant an increase in taxes Experiment, engages in union busting on
for some Minnesotans, 67 percent favored a an unprecedented scale. They are currently
strong elder care program, including 44 percent campaigning for what would be the largest
who strongly supported it. 63 percent supported decertification election in U.S. history, against a
a paid sick and safe time program. 60 percent group of caregivers who are mostly female and
supported a fully-funded child care program. A disproportionately women of color.
comprehensive plan that included all of these was
supported — even if the program would require ■■ Center of the American Experiment has a
higher taxes — by 59 percent of respondents, radical agenda. In January, 2018, they called for
including 37 percent who strongly supported it. the government to enforce “marriage norms”
with stigmatization and, in some cases, legal
■■ The problems facing Minnesota with respect punishments for single parents, divorcees, and
to care are numerous, but funding shortfalls people who live together before marriage. They
and cuts have deepened each. These problems have also advocated for billions of dollars in
include rising child care costs, rising insurance federal cuts to Medicaid.
rates, lax enforcement, decreasing availability of
care, low worker pay, inadequate benefits, and ■■ A closely connected organization, Freedom Club,
lower quality of life. has run a blog called Alpha News since 2015.
Shortly after they were founded, Alpha News
■■ These problems exacerbate existing statistical published several highly editorialized stories
disparities based on race, gender, and sexual by an anonymous contributor which appear to
orientation. provide the rhetorical scaffolding of the Somali
day care story.
■■ A relatively small circle of individuals and
organizations have originated and distributed ■■ Alpha News provided early, vocal support of Jeff
most of the divisive rhetoric that has been Johnson’s campaign for governor. Freedom Club
distributed this election cycle, including the board member Robert Cummins and his wife
rhetoric underpinning Fox 9’s unfounded “Somali Joan are the primary financiers of a recent series
day care” story and several pro-Jeff Johnson ads of pro-Jeff Johnson ads recirculating the Somali
that repeat inaccuracies central to that story. day care story.

■■ Ensure that all Minnesotans have the time and ability to care for their loved ones and
themselves, through paid sick time and paid family leave policies

■■ Provide all Minnesotans access to high-quality, affordable childcare, by fully funding

public childcare programs.

■■ Enable elders and people with disabilities to live in their homes and communities by
solving the home care workforce crisis through providing higher pay and benefits and
establishing professional standards for home care work

■■ Ensure the safety and well-being of elders living in institutional-care settings, through
requiring safe staffing levels, improving pay and benefits for workers, and getting
resident and community input any time a facility is going to be sold off to a new owner.

In 2004, while the rest of the country was facing a shortage of flu vaccines — waiting in lines,
calling clinics, and even leaving the country in search of medicine — Minnesota had more than
120,000 extra shots. “They call it Minnesota nice,” one state health official told the New York
Times. “People feel that they should defer for someone who needs it more.”1

That neighborly concern, that sense of responsibility to the greater good even at personal cost,
has long been Minnesota’s greatest strength. We were the first state to establish a shelter for bat-
tered women to prevent domestic abuse. We came together — Republican and Democrat — and
turned the education crisis of the 1970s into the “Minnesota Miracle.”2 We were one of the first
states, in 1992, to recognize healthcare as a basic right when a bipartisan coalition worked to cre-
ate MinnesotaCare.3

Minnesotans care about each other and are proud when our communities thrive. Yet every day,
many of our neighbors struggle alone to care for our children, our aging parents, our loved ones
with disabilities, and ourselves. These problems are especially acute in Greater Minnesota, and
have been allowed to grow so dire that they now undercut quality of life for most Minnesotans
and even threaten the wellbeing of entire towns. In recent years, New York Mills,4 Worthington5
and Blackduck6 (in the north) have seen hundreds of jobs with major employers go unfilled for a
lack of childcare.

Between 2006 and 2015, Greater Minnesota lost more than 15,000 daycare seats. Families expect-
ing new babies must call dozens of childcare providers, and even then face waitlists of months or
even years. In rural areas, it’s not uncommon for parents to drive 40 miles round trip, twice a day,
to reach a care provider.7 In New York Mills, a small town in central Minnesota, childcare costs
rose so high that the economy was threatened because some employees could no longer afford to
work.8 In metro areas such as St. Cloud, childcare costs can range from $7,500 to $17,000 every
year.9 At the high end, this is about the same as a year at St. Cloud State University, including
housing, food, books and supplies.10
At the same time, there are nearly 8,000 vacancies for the in-home caregiving jobs that allow
seniors and people with disabilities to remain in their homes and communities.11 Coming demo-
graphic changes will lead to more vacancies: the number of Minnesotans turning 65 in the next
decade will be greater than in the last four decades combined while the primary sector that pro-
vides them care — women aged 20–64 — will decrease.12

Care is a basic necessity that everyone needs eventually, usually when they are least able to af-
ford it. When there are no affordable care providers, you are forced to walk a narrow path over a
deep pit. Do you accept lower quality of care? Children and seniors are two of the most vulner-
able populations. Do you go without? Care is not a luxury, and it should not be a privilege. Do
you work longer hours? No one should have to choose between money they need and a child they
love. Do you quit your job? Frequently, workers are barely making ends meet as is. And if a man
or, more likely, a woman quits their job, it can end their career or lower their earning potential
for the rest of their life.

In 2014, more than 85 percent of child care workers in Minnesota were low-wage workers, mak-
ing less than $20,000 annually. This was the highest percent of any industry.13 With part-time,
irregular schedules, the situation is even worse for those who provide in-home care to our elders
and disabled neighbors. A smaller percentage are low wage workers (about 70 percent,) but the in-
come gap between workers is greater. The median annual earnings for a home care worker is just
$12,500.14 The financially untenable position of most care workers, along with the high stress of
sometimes being placed in life-and-death situations with inadequate training and support, have
led to a shocking turn-over rate in the industry: 40-60 percent annually.15

Care workers in Minnesota are primarily women and disproportionately people of color, who
face worse orse economic conditions than their white, male peers. The underfunding of care in
Minnesota exacerbates other racial and gender disparities. Low pay and benefits for caregivers
deepen the inequities in our state.

As for loosening regulations, one child care expert described existing low-quality child care in
an almost apocalyptic tone: groups of babies strapped in car seats all day and toddlers plopped in
front of TVs for hours every day.16 And the recent elder-care abuse crisis is a testament to the lax
regulations that already exist across that sector of the industry.

Lawmakers have systematically cut funding to care programs, both by cutting and by failing
to keep pace with inflation. From 2007 to 2017, the Department of Human Services decreased
spending on its childcare program from $237 million to $97 million, while the developmental dis-
abilities program was cut from $132 million to $112 million. Some programs did see their funding
increase, such as the elder care program; we now know this was still inadequate.17 18

The state was forced to make the tough decision to either pay for child care or elder care — a
situation many Minnesotans have faced  — because, in that ten year period, funding for DHS
programs saw a nine percent cut, after inflation.19 20

Dangerously low standards, decades of under-funding, a growing worker shortage; it is the young,
the old, the poor, and the disabled who have been left to bear the burden. In many cases, even
before cuts, these programs were failing to provide a basic level of security and dignity to fami-
lies, workers, and our neighbors who need care. Money is not the problem — Minnesota’s GDP per
household was almost $130,000 at the last census.21 22

The current situation
Much has been written about Minnesota’s vast daycare deserts, the elder care abuse crisis, rising
care costs, the stifling and undignified system by which we care for our disabled neighbors, and
the low pay and inadequate benefits of care workers. However, the disparate problems are best
understood as the different faces of a single problem: corporate influence in Minnesota’s democ-
racy has pushed some lawmakers’ to prioritize the economic interest of wealthy corporations and
the greedy few over the needs of Minnesota’s people. These decisions have resulted in widespread
hardships, touching nearly every Minnesotan in some way. In spite of this, many — including
Somalis and other recent immigrants — have worked hard to provide care for their neighbors at
all stages of life.

Since she was a child herself, Charla Attarsaheli has She took a huge pay cut, and offers scholarships, but
known she would be a caretaker of children, “ In still had to raise the price. “It breaks my heart that
elementary and high school, I tried to take care of the children who need it the most can’t afford it,” At-
younger kids. I don’t know where it came from, I just tarsaheli said. “The upper middle class can afford the
have known my whole life I was going to work with best childcare for their kids that’s out there. The low-
kids.” She went to Mankato State after high school, er class has to take what they can afford, and unfor-
where she got an elementary education degree with a tunately that’s not always the best place for the kids.”
concentration in kindergarten.
Attarsaheli is hesitant to talk about what low-quality
Charla has cared for children for nearly two decades. child care is like, but says that she has heard stories
Most of that time, she has worked out of her home, from families. “They’re understaffed, overwhelmed,
but recently she and another provider partnered and don’t know how to deal with children who are
to open a daycare center in St. Cloud. They opened having problems.”
October 30, 2017, and in less than four months, they
were at over 90 percent capacity. “We figured our With two decades of experience in the industry, At-
infant room would fill up fast, but our toddler and tarsaheli knows that to solve the crisis the public
preschool rooms are filling up faster than we had an- must invest in families and teachers like her. Teach-
ticipated.” ers go to college for two to four years to earn $11–13
per hour, she said. “You can go to McDonald’s and
Even though the center is doing better than Attar- make more.” There are also continuing education
saheli and her partner anticipated, they are still do- requirements that the teachers have to pay out-of-
ing worse than when they worked out of their homes. pocket, “In the public schools, teachers have inser-
They are doing more for their community, but Attar- vice days they get paid for. We don’t have that.”
saheli had to take a 30-40 percent pay cut to do it.
Rather than being paid, they are paying to provide She said that she has seen parents take a lower paying
a vital service to their community, and neither the job or quit work altogether to qualify for assistance or
state nor the city of St. Cloud are helping them. They care for their children because, for some, it is cheaper
received no subsidies or low-interest loans. She and to not work. “That’s not right.”
her partner had to put up their own homes as collat-
eral to open the care center.

Disabled Adults
Lauren Thompson sits on the Minnesota Council on In May, 2018, Thompson was featured in a Minne-
Disability. The 29-year-old lives in Champlin, MN, apolis Star Tribune article by Chris Serres. The ar-
where she receives 24-hour care in an assisted living ticle examined the widespread practice of putting
facility. Because of her disability, Thompson is not young and otherwise healthy Minnesotans with
able to hold a full-time job, but is active on Facebook disabilities into facilities designed for and primarily
where she is an amateur journalist, informing mem- filled with seniors, some of who have dementia. “Too
bers of the disability and PCA (Personal Care Atten- many people with disabilities live in inappropriate,
dant) communities about important events and rule more-expensive settings, and that makes me so sad
changes. She also does advocacy work and occasion- I’m speechless,” she told Serres.23
ally meets with legislators. “I just try to keep as busy
as possible,” she said. Thompson wants to get out of assisted living, but has
been told that the system which theoretically pro-
Because of her needs, the chronically underfunded vides 1:1 care wouldn’t be able to meet her needs be-
care system affects every day of Thompson’s life. In cause the pool of employees is too small. She blames
her home, the client/provider ratio is 11:1. In the the lack of workers on bad pay and benefits, and poor
morning, she has to wait for help to get out of bed, support. The supervisor in her building recently quit,
and again at night to get into bed. “Sometimes, I can’t even though they had just started the job. There is a
get all my home chores done, or I have to skip them replacement supervisor, but they are also still com-
completely. I can’t follow a schedule because I don’t pleting their regular duties.
know when I’ll be able to get up or when I’ll get to
bed.” Adding to the problem, Thompson’s care is lim- “Right now,” she said, “I’m doing a lot of compromising.”
ited to the building, which makes it hard to leave.

Aysia Morgan is a 24 year-old CNA in the dementia The lack of resources is evident in training, too. Mor-
unit at Parkview Care Center in Buffalo, MN. She gan said that once a month or so, there is computer
helps her clients get through the day, from dressing training for skills and regulations. These are helpful,
them in the morning, to feeding them at dinner. She she said, but also of limited value. “A computer can
helps them to the toilet, and acts as a companion, only tell us so much, instead of actively doing it. We
when she can. The nature of her work is such that need to demo it,” she said. For example: the heimlich
most of her clients are nearing the end of their life. maneuver. “You know what you’re supposed to do,
Most of her clients are also confused and have high kind of, but you’re not really taught in person.”
levels of care needs.
Morgan is proud of the work she and her coworkers do,
As the caregiver shortage deepens, Morgan and her co- but knows that there are limits to what can be done
workers are expected to do extra work, sometimes for under the current system. Some days, she gets as lit-
no extra pay. They receive meager incentive pay for tle as half an hour with each patient in the morning.
picking up extra shifts. (“We need to get more incen- “With the limited time we get, and the limited staff,
tives,” she said.) But once they are clocked in, they get they’re not getting the best care.” She picks up an ex-
paid the same whether there are four people doing the tra shift or two every week so that coworkers don’t
work or only two. Morgan recalled the last time she have to work short staffed and patients don’t have
worked a half-staffed shift: “Everybody was trying to go without necessary care. “I sacrifice and miss
to get out of their chairs by themselves, and standing, a night with my family,” Morgan said, “I just did it
and they always need a carry belt around them. It was yesterday, I did it this weekend.” Still, there is rarely
hard to juggle everything that was going on.” time to take a patient outside for a walk. Instead, they
are expected to sit in their chairs for most of the day.

Perhaps the most visible failure of Minnesota’s care Houle would care for her mother for two years. “Ev-
system has been the massive elder abuse crisis that eryone thought I was going to burn out,” she said.
has rocked the state. Many abuses were reported by Still, she found it rewarding. “We shared so much, we
the Star Tribune in their ground breaking five-part laughed, we shared clothes, we did things that we’d
series published in 2017 — abuses which include sex- never done. I moved out of the house when I was 18;
ual assault, beatings, and retaliation for reporting we had never really got that time as mother daughter
abuse.24 Even at its best, however, it doesn’t provide to just have fun. That was part of what the last two
as much support as it should. years of her life was.”

Kim Houle cared for her mother when she could no Eventually, Houle’s mother was moved to hospice
longer live independently after a lifetime of health and her condition began to deteriorate. The change
issues. She was born with double club foot and was was sudden. Houle and her husband had plans to go
told she would never walk. With help from the Shri- to Memphis, TN, for their 25th wedding anniversary.
ner’s, though, she was walking at the age of twelve. Houle was concerned about her mother, but after a lot
By the age of 48, she was a widow, and was diagnosed of thinking, decided to go. “That was really the last
with emphysema. “Her generation used cigarettes as time we got to talk.” When Houle returned, her moth-
a fashion accessory,” Houle said of her mother. er was “in a fog,” she said. Two weeks later, she passed.

She underwent an extensive lobectomy; half of one Houle’s story is a testament to the importance of
lung and ¾ of the other were removed. However, the quality care: for the dignity of the patient and for the
emphysema continued, and in 2006 she had a full emotional and spiritual well being of their family.
lung transplant. She was given three to five years to “Now that we know there is an enormous crisis in our
live. Seven years later, her health worsened, and her care system for elderly,” she said, “we need to tighten
daughter helped her move from Grand Forks, ND, to our lens, make sure that our elderly aren’t marginal-
the Twin Cities. ized and left flailing in the wind.”

Even with a full time staff caring for her mother,

Houle found the experience stressful. “I had her in
an assisted living facility, and was overseeing the
care there, as well as the bills. It was a lot to take care
of,” she said.

How did we get here?
After the second world war, there was a great sense of
American community. The “family wage system” be-
gan to form with the New Deal, and solidified in the
post-war era. Under this system, wives provided free
child care and domestic work. Employers were ex-
pected to pay men what amounted to a double wage
to support this infrastructure provided by women.25
Under this system, women’s wealth was controlled
by their husbands and many others were denied
support altogether: working women, single parents,
and, especially, people of color. A key part of the
family wage system was government-enforced labor
standards and benefits, but labor law deliberately
exempted the kinds of jobs held by people of color:
domestic and agricultural workers. One study found
that farmers of color alone lost over $600 million in
social security benefits because of that exclusion.26
In Minnesota today, people of color make up 19 per-
cent of the state’s population, but 30 percent of direct
care workers.27 Home care workers were not guaran-
“Dog whistle” language is still used by many political operatives,
teed the federal minimum wage until 2016.28
including Center for the American Experiment.
Even for those it benefitted, the family wage system
proved to be short lived. In the seventies, the key Both parties are culpable: Ronald Reagan talked
components of the system began to be weakened and about “welfare queens,” but Bill Clinton delivered
disassembled: unions were muzzled, welfare pro- “welfare reform.”31 Though promising (to those who
grams were defunded, and everyone quietly agreed heard it) to target black and brown people, this slow
that employers weren’t obligated to provide benefits unraveling of vital government infrastructure hurt
or pay a family wage.29 everyone. Notice that Atwater didn’t say that this
To facilitate this unraveling of the safety net, dog whis- strategy was about delivering benefits to white peo-
tle politics were developed by Lee Atwater and other ple, but that “blacks get hurt worse than whites.”
strategists for the Nixon administration. Atwater ex- Since the 70s, wages have stagnated, quality of life
plained the strategy in a 1981 interview in which he has eroded, and inequality has surged for everyone.
used shocking language that may be painful to read:30 The women’s movement normalized the idea of a
“You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, working woman, so when a family could no longer
nigger.’ By 1968, you can’t say ‘nigger’ — that hurts live on a single wage, women entered the workforce.
you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, In fact, since 1980, 84 percent of the increase in medi-
states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so an family income has come from women entering the
abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting
workforce rather than from wages keeping pace with
taxes, and all these things you’re talking about
are totally economic things and a byproduct of the cost of living.32 With women working outside the
them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. home, someone had to provide care (especially child
And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m and elder care) and families had to buy what women
not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting once provided for free.
that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing
Today, this lack of support now threatens your fami-
away with the racial problem one way or the
other. You follow me — because obviously sitting ly and your neighbors — white, black, and brown.
around saying, ‘We want to cut this,’ is much
more abstract than even the busing thing, and a
hell of a lot more abstract than ‘Nigger, nigger.’

What do we spend money on?
The United States is enjoying its longest ever period of economic expansion. For the last ten years,
the gross domestic product has only risen. And yet, for most Americans, and for most Minne-
sotans, the quality of life has fallen. What good is a strong economy if it doesn’t make your life
better? What good are tax cuts today if your health care costs rise tomorrow? Care is at the heart
of a secure, dignified, and fulfilling life. If we’re not willing to pay for that, what good is money?

Caregiving is also a vital part of the infrastructure

Overall Funding for Housing, Health,
than enables corporations and business owners to
and Human Services Block Grants Has
be profitable. The economic developer for New York
Fallen Significantly Since 2000
Mills helped facilitate the daycare deal between the
city and the Brunswick Boat Company. Speaking Change relative to 2000 funding level
about the deal, he told MinnPost that economic de- Adjusted for inflation
velopment “is not just about creating jobs anymore, Adjusted for inflation and population growth
Adjusted for growth in gross domestic product
but about having an infrastructure around those 20%
jobs.”33 In one sense, caregiving is a business expense
that many companies pass on to their employees.
In the absence of a functioning, privately maintained
care infrastructure, lawmakers could have stepped
in and helped build a public system. However, in -20%
addition to stagnating wages, the last several years -30%
have seen corporate taxes slashed, both in real terms
and in the form of lax enforcement and a failure to
regulate loopholes as they are discovered. As reve- -50%
20 0




20 9

20 5

20 7
20 3
20 1

20 0



20 5

20 3
20 1





nues have fallen, federal welfare programs have seen



37 percent of their funding cut34  — more costs that Note: Includes funding from the 2009 Recovery Act. For non-entitlement
are passed directly to the people least able to afford programs, 2017 levels represent annualized funding under the current con-
tinuing resolution (which expires on April 27, 2017); final levels for 2017
them, while the wealthiest collect a larger and larger may end up higher or lower than shown here.
share of the pie. Source: CBPP based on Congressional Research Service reports, agency
budget justification documents, and appropriations legislation. Inflation
data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics; population data from the Social
The elder care scandal offers a bleak look at what Security and Medicare Trustees; gross domestic product data from the Bu-
happens when lawmakers do not adequately fund reau of Economic Analysis.
care. As early as 2010, DHS told the legislature they From Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (
needed more staff to investigate elder abuse cases:
“cases involving higher levels of harm are increasing It is the government’s job to build and maintain vital
and it is reasonable to assume that these cases will infrastructure, and to levy taxes in a practical and
be more clinically complicated... this will reduce the equitable way to pay for it. Care is a fundamental
annual caseload for each of the investigators.” 35 That part of that infrastructure, not a profit-generating
year, there were about 3,600 cases of abuse reported. industry. When a network of care works like it’s sup-
By 2016, that number had risen to over 24,000, with posed to, no one profits and everyone benefits. Just
less than two percent of abuse cases investigated.36 look at Lanesboro Middle School.

Lanesboro recognized early that care isn’t a privilege Benefits of the investment in the Lanesboro program
but a critical piece of infrastructure. The small Min- are numerous: happy children, affordable childcare,
nesota town enacted a pilot program in 1987 that saw a convenience, security of mind, and improved educa-
childcare center built at their middle school. Original- tion outcomes. No wonder the program is mentioned
ly, the center had 15 seats, but as care costs skyrock- in the town’s pitch for businesses to relocate.38
eted, they expanded to 51 seats. “It’s helped keep the
cost to parents down, by supporting it with district
money,” Lanesboro Superintendent Matt Schultz told
MinnPost. Parents pay about a third less than they
might otherwise, and they have the peace of mind
knowing that their children receive the care and nur-
turing they need to have happy, healthy childhoods.37

Failed Investment
New Flyer of America is one of the largest employers Private for-profit companies are routinely the benefi-
in St. Cloud, employing 703 people in the city and ciaries of business-friendly legislators who write the
nearly 700 more in the surrounding area.39 In 2014, rules guiding business subsidies in Minnesota. The
the company applied for a $1 million grant, along return on these public investments has never been
with a $250,000 loan, claiming that they would not demonstrated. There is no means testing; companies
expand if they did not received the money. The Stea- do not have to show that they need help to expand.
rns County Redevelopment Authority gave them the Between 2008 and 2017, 60 percent of corporate proj-
grant, and took credit for creating 136 new jobs in ects that took part in one subsidy program — the same
the community. 40 That same year, New Flyer Inter- one as Geringhoff — failed to meet their wage goals
national gave their executives a 38 percent raise, on but were allowed to keep the grant money.46 This pro-
average, raising the total they paid to vice presidents gram, the Minnesota Investment Fund, had replaced
and above from $5.8 million to $9.4 million. 41 a subsidy program begun by Tim Pawlenty which
was itself widely regarded as an inefficient failure.47
St. Cloud is also home to Geringhoff, which has been
given an undisclosed amount of tax exemptions go- Business subsidies such as the Minnesota Investment
ing back to 2013. That year, they were also awarded a Fund are questionable at best, but receive millions
$500,000 grant by the city of St. Cloud. Both of these of dollars of public funding. Meanwhile, vital care
subsidies were contingent on Geringhoff creating infrastructure  — proven to benefit individuals and
100 new full-time jobs within two years. As of 2016, communities in New York Mills, Worthington, and
the company had only hired 47 full-time workers, 42 43 Blackduck  — goes underfunded. Charla Attarsaheli
and the average pay was below the target. 44 Gering- received no subsidies from the city, county, or state
hoff had to repay some (but not all) of the grant, and when she opened her care center and no grants or
the city has never said how much tax the company loans when she took a pay cut to care for more chil-
has avoided. 45 dren in St. Cloud.


adequate funding,

industries wi ll be

competefor scarce
to increasingly


Lobbying Against Care
In 2015, a broad coalition met in Duluth (which had est spender.58 In fact, they have led lobbying in the
the lowest level of access to paid sick and family leave state eight of the last 12 years, and have not been less
in Minnesota) to announce a campaign to guarantee than second in spending since 2004.59
sick leave throughout the state.48 Labor, faith, and The Chamber also turns a blind eye to the exploita-
small business groups came together to advance the tion of tax loopholes. Both Medtronic and 3M are rep-
issue, which was supported by about 60 percent of re- resented on their board of directors,60 even though
publicans and independents in the state, and over 90 both of these companies have been cited as having
percent of democrats.49 A non-partisan white paper by some of the largest overseas stockpiles of cash of U.S.
the Minnesota Department of Health concluded that: companies — $8 billion between them.61 If they had
“Attending to these issues is becoming allowed this profit to be taxed at the state’s corporate
increasingly important because paid leave tax rate of 9.8 percent, the state would have at least
policies, or a lack thereof, do impact health… $700 million more in its budget.
Minnesota may see increasing disparities
and unnecessary health care costs if these $250 million from unemployment insurance, $300
issues are not considered and addressed.”50 million from property taxes, $700 million in tax
Despite the well documented need, and the wide, bipar- loopholes  — conservatively, the Chamber and its
tisan support, the bill didn’t make it out of committee. members have cost Minnesota more than a billion
dollars in just the last few years. (A recent budget
The next session, a similarly diverse coalition saw proposal by the governor’s office found that provid-
several years of work climax when members of the ing adequate oversight to the state’s licensed elder
DFL introduced a bill which would have guaranteed care facilities would only cost $1–2 million a year.62 )
12 weeks of paid time off for Minnesota workers who
had long-term illness, who recently had a child, or The Chamber does not represent all business own-
who had a loved one experiencing an illness. The bill ers, however. Stephanie Darrow represented Gand-
easily passed the Senate, but Republicans, with the hi Mahal restaurant before a Senate subcommit-
help of two DFLers, killed the bill in the House. tee in support of the paid family and medical leave
act. She explained that small businesses who do the
Both bills had the support of faith communities, la- right thing and provide benefits struggle to compete
bor, small businesses, health providers, and average against businesses that keep prices artificially low by
Minnesotans.51 But marshalling the fight against sick denying their workers basic benefits. The paid family
leave was the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce. and medical leave bill would have given businesses
(Both Geringhoff and New Flyer are members of the that compete in good faith a more fair standing. The
St. Cloud Area Chamber of Commerce,52 which is very next speaker was the Chamber of Commerce,
represented on the state Chamber’s board of direc- whose solution was to leave the problem to be solved
tors.53 ) After the Chamber decried the paid family by business leaders, saying the public’s elected offi-
leave provision for being “a mandate” and “a tax,”54 cials had no right to take part in the conversation.63
the House refused to even vote on it.55
The Chamber is not always successful in their efforts
The same year, the Chamber helped to extract $258 however. When groups in the Twin Cities coalesced
million from the state’s unemployment insurance around paid sick leave at the municipal level, both
trust fund, and ensured that the fund would teeter at Minneapolis and St. Paul passed them. And when la-
the edge of insolvency by guaranteeing business tax- bor, faith, and community groups coalesced around
breaks when the fund reaches just 4 percent above the raising the minimum wage in Minneapolis, the pro-
minimum it needs to survive.56 In 2017, the Chamber posal became law. The Chamber has fought these
successfully advocated for property tax changes which measures repeatedly, but they do not have the sup-
cost the state almost $300 million that year alone.57 port of the voters, they do not have the support of
The Chamber pursues its agenda through a deep-pock- the courts, and so far, they have failed to block these
eted lobbying arm that spent over $2.7 million lobby- democratically enacted laws. Aside from their mem-
ing in 2016, more than any other organization in the bers and the legislators they lobby, their proposals
state and over $600,000 more than the second larg- are not very popular.

Distract, Divide, Divest
Those opposing quality care and dignified work are In the ad,72 an exasperated woman plops groceries
not a single homogenous group, but a coalition of onto a kitchen counter and proceeds to tell Minne-
different groups with complementary tactics. It in- sotans why they shouldn’t trust each other. The ad
cludes “nonpartisan” groups such as the Chamber of tries to drive a wedge between rural and urban vot-
Commerce as well as more explicitly ideological or- ers, decrying transportation infrastructure spend-
ganizations and individuals such as the Center of the ing in the Twin Cities as something “no one wants.”
American Experiment and the Freedom Club. The ad scowls that a vague and shadowy ‘they’ “want
socialism.” But the most shameful part of the ad is
Freedom Club regularly gives an outlet to some of the the repetition of the ridiculous claim that $100 mil-
most radical and divisive idealogues in America. They lion of child care assistance money is “sent to Soma-
recently gave a dinner that featured David Horowitz lia”  — this would be half of the state’s entire child
as the keynote speaker.64 Horowitz — whose website care assistance program.73
alleges of the left that they “collaborate with Amer-
ica’s enemies beginning with the communist totali- The Freedom Club runs the divisive propaganda
tarians of the Cold War and extending now to the Is- blog Alpha News. In 2016, Alex Kharam was both
lamist barbarians”65  — used the opportunity to call the full-time executive director of Freedom Club,74
for civil war. A blog run by Freedom Club praised and the quarter-time president of Alpha News.75 76 In
Horowitz’s speech as “blunt to the point of making the three years since it began, the blog has built a li-
Minnesota Republicans uncomfortable, which is per- brary of inflammatory articles. It uses a variety of
haps exactly what they need.”66 tactics, from innocuously reporting on things others
say (“Gubernatorial Candidate and City Residents
Despite the divide between their public-facing brand Blast Islam and Sharia Law”77 ) to parroting feverish
values, the factions are two cars going over the same conspiracy theories (“Are Muslim Students Associa-
cliff. During the 2018 primary, the Chamber of Com- tions in Public Schools Cause for Concern?”78 ) Most
merce endorsed Republican Tim Pawlenty. But in notably, days apart, in 2015, Alpha News published a
the 2014 general election, they endorsed Jeff John- series of stories by an anonymous contributor which
son, the current Republican nominee67 who received were later welded together by Fox 9 into the non-
early support from several groups with close ties to sensical “Somali daycare story,” referenced in that
the Freedom Club, including Alpha News68 and Min- Jeff Johnson ad: Minnesota Congress members keep up
nesotans for Bold Reform.69 pressure for Somali money-transfers, is it safe?79 and
America is currently enjoying the longest econom- More Somali daycare fraud in Minnesota, could abuse
ic expansion in its history, but the quality of life of have been prevented?80
average people has only declined over that 10-year Freedom Club is linked to a number of other propa-
period. Voters know that the Chamber’s promise of ganda factories. Their board of directors includes the
a bullish economy improving everyone’s life is naive president and CEO of the Center of the American
at best, and a lie at worst. To mask their apathy to- Experiment.81 (The two organizations share another
ward the concerns of working-class people, that fac- board member as well.82 ) Politically, CAE is lock-step
tion of the big-business coalition has come to rely on with the fanatical and reactionary Freedom Club.
the propaganda network built and maintained by the
Freedom Club to keep Minnesotans distracted and One bizarre, rambling CAE report on the subject of
divided against each other over race, religion and im- “restoring a marriage norm” advocates stigmatization
migration status. If you are afraid to take your eyes and legal punishment of single parents, those who live
off your neighbor, the Chamber, the Freedom Club, together before marriage, divorcees, and everyone
and all their allies know that no one will see them else who doesn’t conform to their paleo-conservative
raid the public coffers. values, demanding that “violators must pay a price.”83
The report was published in January, 2018, and begins
A recent Jeff Johnson ad paid for by Freedom Club with a glowing introduction by CAE’s founder.
board member Robert Cummins70 and his wife Joan71
provides a perfect example of a dog-whistle at work.

Like Freedom Club, CAE spreads rhetoric designed to
make Minnesotans fear and distrust their neighbors.
They dedicated two pages of their most recent maga-
zine to re-telling the Freedom Club’s widely discredit-
ed Somali daycare story.84 They frequently use racially
charged language. One article criticising racial equity
used the disgusting title “No Thug Left Behind” and
advocated more punishment for black students.85

CAE is also virulently anti-union. They are behind

the push to get Minnesota teachers to opt out of the
teachers union.86 They are also the force behind MNP-
CA, a hazy organization that claims to represent PCAs,
but which takes great lengths to hide its backers. Their
address is a PO Box, their phone a VOIP number from
Skype or Google Voice, and their website was regis-
tered through a proxy.87 There are no names given for
agents or officers of the group on the website. How-
ever, they work with Douglas Seaton,88 senior counsel
at a law firm that “exclusively advises and represents
employers in labor and employment matters,” accord- The Center of the American Experiment co-hosts all of MNPCA’s
ing to its website.89 The firm, Seaton, Peters & Revnew, press conferences. Source: YouTube
P.A, is represented on the CAE board of directors.90

Despite the branding of their front organizations,

these groups are not populist. Their boards and
c-suites are stuffed with some of the richest people in
Minnesota, an array of high-financiers, half a dozen
corporate law firms that specialize in union-busting,
and some of the largest corporations in the nation.
General Mills, Dorsey Whitney, and Comcast are
each represented on the CAE board.91

Hoisting the banner
For his part, Johnson has eagerly exploited the hate- It remains to be seen whether the Chamber will turn
ful paranoia of the Freedom Club and CAE: a deaf ear to his dog whistles in the hopes of passing
their 2018 “wish list” for the legislature:
“State taxes used to fund state public programs
have become increasingly burdensome... we
rank 7th in the country for highest Medicaid
spending per enrollee – largely driven
by our per-enrollee spending on disabled
individuals (2nd highest nationally) and low-
income children (7th highest nationally).”93

Farther down their wish list, they claim that Minne-

sotaCare’s “very generous benefits increase the pro-
gram’s costs and present enrollees with a disincen-
tive to pursue upward economic mobility.” As though
poverty  — including childhood poverty  — were
something you could just choose to not do anymore.
As though the minimum wage were enough to pay for
food, rent, and basic care (though they also oppose
the minimum wage.)94 The language is reminiscent
of CAE’s claim that the wealthy are a superior breed:
Johnson takes the xenophobia to new heights, prom- “The marriage norm need not be reinvented entirely.
ising on his website to close Minnesota even to doc- It is alive and well among Americans with higher in-
umented immigrants living in other states.92 The comes and college educations. Perhaps all they need
fear-mongering — of Muslims, of immigrants, of peo- to do... is to tell the rest of America to shape up.”
ple who live in the Cities — is always in service of the
Other priorities of the big-business coalition include
Freedom Club’s, CAE’s, and the Chamber’s agenda of
eradicating public employee benefits,95 workers com-
less care, cheaper labor, and lower taxes at all costs:
pensation, and whistleblower protections.96 They
want to slash the corporate tax rate, the estate tax,
and business property taxes to “increase tax compet-
itiveness.”97 This despite the fact that, of all states,
Minnesota already has the third most Fortune 500
companies per capita.98

When you deconstruct the hate-filled messaging of

the Freedom Club, CAE, and the Johnson campaign,
when you dissect the slogans manufactured to cap-
ture the moment, when you break through the razor
wire and violence, their actual proposals are surpris-
ingly monotonous. Johnson, who is such a firebrand
for animosity between Minnesotans, loses all emo-
tion when he explains the actual steps he will take to
#OverthrowTheStatusQuo. The number one solution
in his healthcare agenda reads:
“I will propose tax exemption for
contributions into healthcare benefit
accounts and allowing pre-tax dollars to
accumulate in accounts that can feed HSA’s
and similar vehicles to pay for care.”99

Toward a more caring Minnesota
“It seemed like their solution for everything was to try and scare us into hating immigrants or
people who lived in Minneapolis. How does that help my life? How would their fear-mongering
lower health care costs? How would their scare tactics put more resources in our schools and fill
the potholes in our roads? It seems to me like we need everyone to come together to fix the prob-
lems we all face.” —A letter published in the Albert Lea Tribune after the 2018 primary100
It is easy to convene a closed-door meeting of wealthy happy in their jobs, who know her and how to care
political insiders like Freedom Club, CAE, and the for her, and that she and they could have a good dy-
Chamber. It is hard to seek out the wisdom of average namic. “That would be my wildest dream,” she said.
Minnesotans. However, true democracy demands a Thompson said the first steps are higher PCA pay and
slow gathering of input from all citizens. The role of lower staff-to-client ratios, though eventually she
policy-makers is to implement the will of the people, wants the state to address the widespread, chronic
not to tell the people what will happen. That is why underfunding of the system.
SEIU Healthcare Minnesota and ISAIAH have em-
Aysia Morgan eventually wants elderly people to be
barked on a door-to-door campaign to learn how av-
able to travel anywhere they wanted, “We only live
erage people interact with the care infrastructure of
once,” she said. But she would settle for our elders be-
Minnesota, and to learn what they value. The cam-
ing able to go outside: “I wish we had more PCAs, so we
paign is ongoing and has reached multiple parts of
could just engage with them, and take them outside for
the state, but it got started St. Cloud.
a walk if they wanted to. Play a card game, you know?”
Preliminary results are striking. Of all those surveyed,
Others — such as Kim Houle — don’t care what we do
across the political spectrum, 84 percent were willing
so long as people receive care when they need it, and
to share a personal struggle they were currently ex-
don’t have to sell their homes to pay for it. “If single
periencing with family care. Childcare (23 percent,)
payer is the way, if national healthcare; I don’t know.
healthcare (24 percent), and eldercare (26 percent)
We just need to find a way.”
were the most common causes of difficulty. 101
Across the state, most people agree on the broad strokes
Truly bold, revolutionary ideas came from these
of an agenda. A recent survey spoke to 600 Minneso-
deeply principled St. Cloudites, progressive and con-
tans from the north and the south halves of the state,
servative, white, black, and brown. People envisioned
and the Twin Cities area. Even if it meant a mandate
health care freed from the stranglehold of private
for business owners, 68 percent of all respondents sup-
for-profit insurance companies. They wanted subsi-
ported a paid family leave program. Even if it meant
dized childcare for themselves and their neighbors.
an increase in taxes for some Minnesotans, 67 percent
They wanted a way to access quality care when they
favored a strong elder care program, including 44 per-
retired. They wanted a safety net to stop anyone go-
cent who strongly supported it. Sixty-three percent
ing homeless because of medical debt. Many simply
supported a paid sick and safe time program. Sixty
wanted a guarantee that they or their parents could
percent supported a fully-funded child care program.
die with the same dignity as they lived. One woman
Respondents were white, black, and brown; strongly
said she wanted St. Cloud to get a new VA building.
Democratic, strongly Republican, and everything in
Another man said he just wanted St. Cloud to be pre-
between. A comprehensive plan that included all of
pared for the coming wave of retiring baby boomers.
these was supported by 59 percent of respondents, in-
(No one mentioned health savings accounts.)102
cluding 37 percent who strongly supported it.103
Some of the people who are concerned about the state
Our spirit of community, of commitment to the great-
of care in Minnesota, people such as Lauren Thomp-
er good, is why Minnesota has been a national leader
son, have a modest vision. Thompson said she wants
for more than a century, and why we will be a leader
PCAs that could come when she needs them, who are
in care and a high quality of life for many more years.
Six Minnesota Values
Care that flows from our Minnesotan values is root- Care is a universal need, and the government should
ed in neighborly concern. It recognizes that care is not be in the business of deciding the worth of its citi-
a shared responsibility, that being nice isn’t enough, zens. That means that our care system cannot include
that we owe each other more than that. This is care carve outs or exceptions. It must be rooted in a simple
that recognizes dignity as a basic human right, not a truth: all people have dignity. All people deserve a ba-
privilege for the wealthy. This is care grounded in six sic level of comfort and security. It doesn’t matter how
principles: dignity, families and community, univer- rich they or their parents or their children are. Care
sality, democracy, equity, and altruism. should not be a commodity, and the best of our care
Dignity means respecting the inherent value of all system should not be reserved for the wealthy alone.
people. Like Charla Attarsaheli said, all children de- A complete, universal care policy will require us all
serve to feel secure, confident, and loved, regardless to be actively involved in our communities. We need
of how rich or poor their parents are. When children a deeper democracy. We need new tools for commu-
reach adulthood, and enter the workforce, they do nities to shape the care of their residents. That could
not deserve less. Our care system must recognize the mean a public hearing every time an out-of-state
value and dignity of all work: that means the prom- company tries to buy a nursing home, or giving a
ise of a fair wage, the security of a strong safety net, greater voice to caregivers through unionization.
the opportunity to devote some time to your family We cannot ignore the injustices that our country has
when a loved one needs care, and a comfortable and committed in the past, or else the cycle of discrimina-
fulfilling retirement. True dignity is not conditional tion will continue for another generation. An equitable
on what a person can produce, and when our elders care system will actively redress the systemic racism
are past the age of work they must be given the re- that exists at all levels of the system. We must reverse
spect, security, and comfort they have earned after a policies that limit the access of persons of color to quali-
lifetime of caring for us. They deserve to live in their ty child care, health care, health benefits, and elder care.
own homes or surrounded by a community of their We must acknowledge that while care work has some of
peers, as they choose. In either case, they deserve to the lowest pay and worst access to quality medical ben-
have their care needs met with quality healthcare, efits among Minnesota jobs, it is disproportionately un-
affordable medications, and adequate staff. dertaken by people of color, especially women of color.
One of the most basic meanings of life is to feel the The United States healthcare system has become a
love of your family and foster the relationships that cash cow; there are numerous ways that corporations
build your community. Our care system must reflect and financial institutions have found to profit off of
this, and reinforce these relationships. We need paid care. Our care system needs to excise the profit mo-
sick and family leave because you should not have tive from the industry, to protect our most vulnera-
to work while your parent or child is sick or dying. ble neighbors, and those least able to pay. Our system
A single full time job should pay enough for you to should instead be built on a spirit of altruism. We must
spend time with your family in comfort and secu- care for our neighbors, and that means being generous
rity; no one should be forced to work two and three with the resources we are fortunate enough to have.
jobs with irregular hours while still facing the spec- Eventually, improving our care system is going to re-
tre of poverty at the end of every pay period. Elder quire increased revenue. This will be a sacrifice, but
care should be built so that loved ones are free to our children are worth every penny; our parents, ev-
spend quality time with their parents and grandpar- ery drop of sweat.
ents rather than spending their time providing for
tedious basic care and financial needs.

Policy Recommendations to Meet Minnesotans’ Care Needs
More work needs to be done to engage Minnesotans to generate a policy agenda that will address
all our diverse and growing needs for care infrastructure, but we are not starting from scratch.
Some components of the solutions we need are already clear, and urgently needed. Below are
some well thought out policies that should be pursued right away, while we continue the larger
conversation about how we as Minnesotans will get serious about building the care infrastruc-
ture to do right by our kids, elders, family members, and disabled neighbors.

Time to Care
No employer should force someone to work when Right now, some women return to work within a day
their family needs them or when they are ill and or two of giving birth, and most fathers don’t get any
need to take care of themselves. Minnesotans need time off. We should give new parents a chance to bond
time to care, and policies that support a more caring with their baby after the stress of pregnancy and
culture. Establishing statewide minimum standards childbirth with paid time, in addition to medical leave.
that guarantee paid sick time for all employees is a
good place to start. Across our state, there are thousands of unpaid care-
givers caring for disabled and elderly loved ones.
Hand in hand with that is universal paid family and They deserve a break every now and then. We should
medical leave. That means we have to prioritize ac- fund respite care programs for those who qualify so
cess for everyone with a promise of enough wage re- unpaid caregivers know their charges are safe and
placement that low-wage workers can actually afford secure while they enjoy a brief respite themselves.
to use it, as well as robust job protection. The pro- There are more basics things we could do, too: offer
gram should offer at least 12 weeks for each quali- trainings and support groups; simplify the long-term
fying event. This program would be funded through care system to make it easier to navigate; and pro-
employer premiums paid into a state administered vide caregiver matching services online or through
insurance program. call centers.

The first step toward taking care of our children is to We should fund universal pre-kindergarten, making
fully fund the Child Care Assistance Program so that it available to all four-year-olds in Minnesota. We
every family that is eligible receives support. Along should develop a system the supports both existing
with this, we need to decrease the income eligibili- community-based childcare providers and expand-
ty levels so more families qualify and increase child ing public options.
care provider reimbursement rates to recognize the
value of this important work and keep up with the We have fallen behind on childcare funding. Mov-
increasing cost of care and to attract and maintain a ing forward, we should create mechanisms to ensure
quality workforce. We currently reimburse provid- policy and licensing requirements are informed by
ers at 2011 market rates. We need to move to today’s those most directly impacted: children, providers
market rate, and put Minnesota back to where we be- and parents.
long, ahead of the curve.

Home care and nursing home workers
Whether in clients’ homes or in institutional settings, need to provide quality care. To make care a real ca-
care work needs to be respected as the hard, vital reer, caregivers need not only training and support,
work that it is. Broadly speaking, the way we accom- but a career ladder, too: opportunities to increase
plish this is by guaranteeing expanded training, pay, their pay through advanced training or gaining ex-
and benefits. perience in the profession. Workers who pursue and
complete advanced training and education that en-
One of the most important steps the state can take to hances the quality of the care their clients or resi-
start treating home care as a real, valued career is to dents receive should earn higher pay. At a more basic
extend some of the basic benefits most other work- level, more experienced caregivers should earn high-
ers get through their employer to home care workers, er pay as a reward for their hard-earned knowledge
including a living wage and health insurance cover- and recognition of their leadership within the field.
age. We can only begin filling the thousands of home
care vacancies in the state by providing a living wage While unionized home care workers in Minnesota
to caregivers. And the people doing the hard work have won access at no cost to CPR, First Aid, and a
of caring for our loved ones deserve health care for few other trainings through their union contract,
themselves and their families. there are many other, even more basic preparation
all workers should receive before starting their jobs.
While state lawmakers made significant improvements Currently, the only required training or orienta-
in funding for nursing homes in 2015, the funding for- tion prior to starting in a home care job through the
mula led to some groups of nursing home workers being state’s programs is an online orientation, though an
excluded from the wage increases that resulted from applicant can skip right to the simple 25-question
the new funding. All care workers, in any care setting test. All care workers in the state (not just those with
and in any part of the state, should make at least $15/ a union) should have basic orientation and training
hour — and that should include anyone working in a for the important work they perform.
nursing home, not just people in certain jobs.
Finally, very few care workers, whether in home care
From basic job preparation to specialized trainings or institutional care settings, have access to a pen-
for client-specific issues like dementia, operating sion, 401(k), or other retirement-security benefit. To
machinery, or managing bowel programs, most care turn this work into a real career, caregivers will need
workers lack access to the training and support they to have the means to someday retire from these jobs.

Care for seniors and people with disabilities

More Minnesotans whose loved ones need long-term most caregivers’ weekly hours were capped at 40, exac-
in-home care should be able to to access that care erbating the worker-shortage for clients and reducing
through high-quality, self-directed programs. To do the income of many caregivers. The state needs to fund
this, we should create a “buy-in” option for clients clients’ ability to get the care they need and are quali-
and families who are not eligible for Medical Assis- fied for. That means paying overtime to caregivers.
tance. Many Minnesota families who do not quali-
fy for Medical Assistance hire home care workers to Beyond these two basic policies, we should have pub-
care for their loved ones, and pay them out of pocket. lic hearings whenever there are proposed mergers or
Many others provide unpaid care themselves. As the acquisitions affecting nursing homes and other insti-
state invests in making home care a real career and tutional-care providers, to make sure the change is
fixing the worker-shortage crisis for state home care in the interests of residents and community mem-
programs, it can expand access to private payers. bers; establish safe staffing standards in institution-
al care settings; and enact policies that ensure dis-
When the federal government finally extended min- abled adults are given dignified homes on their own
imum wage and other provisions of the Fair Labor or with their peers.
Standards Act to home care workers, Minnesota did
not increase funding to pay for overtime. As a result,
As Minnesotans, our strength comes from our ability to care for one another. Whether we’re
white, black or brown, we all want similar things for our families. We want to do right by our el-
ders, and we want to provide our kids with the love, care and opportunities they need to pursue
their dreams.

But right now certain politicians and their greedy lobbyist are putting our children’s future at
risk and leaving our seniors and those with disabilities in dangerous, shameful conditions while
they shame and blame people of color, new immigrants or Muslim Americans for our problems.

We will not let them continue to divide us against each other based on race, background and reli-
gion, distracting us from what really matters to all our families. Together, we have the power to
pick politicians who will prioritize caring for all our loved ones. By joining together across our com-
munities, we can make Minnesota a place where every child, elder and care provider has what they
need to live healthy, fulfilled lives. Together, we can ensure that:

■■ Our communities continue to be strong, caring, and supportive.

■■ Every child has quality loving care and access to great education
so they can pursue their dreams.

■■ Our parents and grandparents will have the support they need
to live and die with dignity.

■■ Those of us who are or who become disabled will get the care and support
we need to continue living the lives we want to live.

■■ Caregivers and educators will be highly trained and fairly paid.

■■ None of us will go bankrupt to pay for our healthcare.

■■ Our families will be able to support one another when we are sick
or when a new baby is born, no matter where we work.

1 “In Minnesota, Flu Vaccines Go Wait- 17 “Social Services Expenditure and Grant 30 “Impossible, Ridiculous, Repugnant,” Bob
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