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By Mark Moran - Producer-Editor, Contact - News


Big Sky Connection - Union members of Montana SEIU 775 learn tomorrow (Tues., 2/20) whether a contract agreement with Consumer Direct will be ratified. The tentative deal calls for higher wages, professional opportunities, and more paid time off. Comments from Jacquie Helt, Montana director, SEIU 775, and Jill Selman, SEIU 775 member and health care worker with Consumer Direct Montana.

Click on the image above for the audio. Consumer Direct Montana is the latest agency in Montana to unionize, and just last month, completed bargaining for its first union contract with in-home caregivers, who are currently voting to ratify the tentative agreement. (Adobe Stock)

Consumer Direct Montana is the latest agency to vote to unionize

Mark Moran

February 19, 2024 - A group of health-care workers in Montana will learn tomorrow whether their new union contract has been ratified.

The tentative deal, between SEIU 775 and Consumer Direct Montana - a health care provider - would mean higher wages, more time off and better professional opportunities.

The Service Employee International Union Local 775 represents about 1,600 health-care workers in Montana. Most are in-home caregivers, a role that is notoriously underpaid.

The union's Montana state Director, Jacquie Helt, said the new labor contract with Consumer Direct Montana would mean big changes for workers - not the least of which is higher pay.

"Guaranteed wage increases of at least $5 per hour," said Helt. "In what is traditionally considered a lower-wage sector, that is really significant."

Helt said the raise would boost Consumer Direct's average starting wage to just under $20 an hour for the unionized employees.

The contract also calls for an additional $1.25 increase in the fall. SEIU 775 is counting the ratification votes and expects results tomorrow.

In addition to better pay, the new contract would also mean more professional opportunities, which Helt said are important to workers in this field - things like training and union representation during conflicts with their employer.

Jill Selman, an SEIU 775 member and in-home caregiver for Consumer Direct, has been in the field for 27 years.

"This job is where my passion is," said Selman. "It's where my heart is. It's what I'd really like to be doing, but it's never been something I could do as my steady career to support my life. I have always had a second job while being a caregiver, and this will allow me to be able to only have just the one job."

Selman added that getting paid time off would also be a big advantage if the contract is ratified.

Currently, Medicaid doesn't reimburse Selman or other caregivers when their patients are hospitalized. Paid time off would mean they don't miss out on a paycheck.

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