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Personal Care Givers Hope To Vote On Unionizing

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(credit: CBS) Pat Kessler
Pat Kessler knows Minnesota politics. He's been on the beat long...
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ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – Thousands of Minnesota’s personal care attendants are asking state lawmakers to allow them to vote on a union.

Democratic leaders said on Wednesday they’ll support the effort, but Republicans are calling it “political payback.”

State law does not allow home care attendants to be in a union, and a bill to be introduced this week would simply permit a vote.

Ziggy Norberg is a championship kayaker, a college student, and basketball player. His mother Karen Urman gave up her career to take care of Ziggy, and help him reach his goals — he was born with Spina Bifida.

She gets $11 an hour from the state, but many of the 15,000 home care attendants earn only minimum wage.

“I work for very low wages,” Urman said. “No benefits, no vacation, no sick pay. I can’t ever expect a raise or a promotion.”

Karen and Ziggy were among the home care attendants at the Capitol asking lawmakers to allow them to unionize, and join the Service Employees Union — one of the largest unions in the state.

It’s an effort Republican leaders call pure politics: a gift from Democrats to labor.

“This is a union rubber stamp,” said Republican Steve Drazkowski, assistant minority leader. “Rubber-stamping different policies in order to bring payback for what was accomplished, bringing them into the majority in the last election.”

One by one, Democratic leaders, including the governor, promised to pass the bill, allowing a union vote.

Karen’s son Ziggy said it’s as much for him, as it is for her.

“I would have to go into some sort of institution group home, which I feel that would really limit the independence that I would have,” Ziggy said.

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