Rep. Ellison works a day with a Minnesota home care worker

Insight News

Fifth District Rep. Keith Ellison joined Clara Nakumbe, a home care worker from Minneapolis for a "Work a Day" event to support raising the minimum wage.

Nakumbe, a great-grandmother who, along with others, is a caregiver for her 42-year-old son. 

In the 11 years since her son was diagnosed with a severe form of multiple sclerosis he has gone from being able to do everything for himself to being completely dependent on others. Rather than have her son move into a nursing home, Nakumbe decided to give up the job that she loved and made decent money at in order to care for him.

20150831 135858Ellison spent time with Nakumbe and her son, hearing about and experiencing what it means to be a home care worker. Nakumbe shared why she has fought for the home care workers union in Minnesota and the historic first contract that went into effect July 1, and why now she is speaking out as part of the national Fight for $15 campaign.

"I know as a home care worker, and the mother of a son who relies on care to stay in his home how valuable home care work is to families across Minnesota," said Nakumbe. "In order to have the stability we need to ensure the best possible care, we need pay and benefits that attract and keep high quality care providers. We are proud of the gains we made with our first contract, but know we still have work to do to get to the point where home care workers and the people we serve get the dignity and respect we deserve. Siran (Nakumbe's son) and I were honored to have Rep. Ellison in our home to see a little bit of what this job looks like, and proud he is joining us in the Fight for $15 for home care workers across the country."

dsc 0818Ellison commented on how seeing home care work firsthand only served to reinforce that both home care workers and clients deserve better.

"Seeing and experiencing the vital work done by home care workers like Clara today was a powerful experience. It makes (it) even more clear to me the importance of home care workers being part of the Fight for $15 and a union," said Ellison. "Clara, like countless others, gives her heart and soul to her work, and deserves pay and benefits that bring stability to the job and dignity to both the home care worker and the person they care for. I am proud to support the Fight for $15."

dsc 0822The Fight for $15 has already made waves in the home care world, as 35,000 Massachusetts home care workers became the first in the nation to win $15 an hour starting wage in their state contract in late June and 20,000 home care workers in Oregon recently reached an agreement to move their pay floor to $15.

Minnesota home care voted in August of 2014 to form their union. They reached a contract agreement later that year with the state, which saw workers receiving paid time off for the first time, a raise in the pay floor to $11 per hour, the creation of a training fund and other significant victories. The agreement was ratified by both union members and the legislature, passing into law during the 2015 legislative session. The contract went into effect on July 1st.

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