MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Minnesota’s home health care workers are starting a campaign to raise their pay to $15 an hour.
Thousands of unionized home care workers just got a raise on Aug. 1 to $11 an hour. But the Service Employees International Union’s “Drive for 15” is part of a growing national movement to raise the wage even more for some of the lowest paid workers in the state.READ MORE: Mayor Frey Speaks With North Minneapolis Community Members Say They're Fed Up With Recent Surge Of Gun Violence
It would benefit people like Clara Nakumbe, whose life changed 13 years ago. That’s when her son, Siran, a graduate of Howard University with a degree in chemistry, was diagnosed with a severe form of multiple sclerosis.
He’s now immobile and unable to speak.
Taking care of Siran is more than a full-time job, but Clara and her four other children provide around-the-clock care.
“If I would’ve had to have someone come in and take care of Siran, they would have to be trained to do this,” Nakumbe, who lives in north Minneapolis, said. “Anybody just can’t come in. They don’t know his schedule. They don’t know what to do.”READ MORE: Minnesota Can Move Forward With 'Clean Car' Rules, Judge Says
Clara is a member of the newly unionized SEIU home care workers now pushing for a $15 an hour wage. She’s getting support from Minnesota Democratic Congressman Keith Ellison, who says caring for loved ones at home is better emotionally, and less expensive, too.
“We are all one injury or one illness away from needing the care that you all can provide to him,” Ellison, who represents Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District, said. “Without treating our home health care workers properly, then we have people who need 24-hour care. It’s more expensive and the care is not as good,” he said.
For Clara, it’s not about the money, although “everything is tight,” she said.
She and Siran don’t qualify for food stamps, so they sometimes visit a nearby food shelf to make ends meet. And though she doesn’t complain about it, she says a $4 an hour raise could make a difference.
“It’s a tight squeeze,” she said. “You do what you need to do. You don’t have the resources, but you say to yourself, ‘We’re going to do this.'”MORE NEWS: George Floyd's Family: Federal Indictment For Four Ex-MPD Officers 'Gives Us Hope'
Two states — Massachusetts and Oregon — this year approved a $15 minimum wage for home care workers.