Earlier this summer, SEIU Healthcare Wisconsin members and employees of New Health Services held a vigil to call for better pay and job improvements.
Nearly 50,000 home care workers in Wisconsin are earning poverty wages while doing critical work for our families. These front line workers are the key to dignity and independence for Wisconsin’s elderly and people with disabilities. They form a special bond with the people they care for: helping with bathing, food preparation, bathroom use, medications, mobility and other key tasks of daily living. Over the next decade nearly a million people (almost all are women) will become home care workers in America.
On average home are workers make around $13,000 per year. Most do not get paid time off and nearly half of all home care workers receive public assistance, while one-fourth live in households with incomes that fall below the federal poverty line.
Low wages keep hardworking Wisconsin women and their children boxed into a life with too many tough choices and not enough opportunity. That is why home care workers took action on April 15 and formed Homecare Fight for $15. They issued a call for higher wages and union rights to end the cycle of grinding poverty for millions of people in this country. Caring for our most vulnerable should be an honored profession.
A report by the National Employment Law Project says that if America’s 2 million home care workers were paid $15 an hour, it would put $16.5 billion in their pockets, add up to $6.6 billion to the U.S. economy and create as many as 50,000 jobs. Raising wages to $15 an hour would allow home care workers to raise their families with dignity while providing dignity to families across the state.
1) Ensure that homecare workers are paid living wages and given access to comprehensive training and career development.
2) Reject the insurance company takeover of our long term care program.
3) Improve and support the current Family Care, IRIS and partnership programs to increase local control, consumer choice and consumer-directed, independent living.
4) Require stakeholders be consulted to design needed improvements in the current system.
For more information: Contact Creasie Fowler, 414-779-1342
Writing in the New York Times on Sunday, Eileen Boris and Jennifer Klein, professors at UC-Santa Barbara and Yale, respectively, highlighted the continued struggle facing home care workers across the United States. Earlier this year, standing beside SEIU ULTCW member Pauline Beck, a home health aide from Oakland, CA , President Obama announced a proposed Labor Department rule change to give home care workers protections, like overtime pay, that most American workers take for granted.
“Establishing the legitimacy of care as productive, necessary labor – a really job – would recognize the realities of both our aging society and our service economy,” Boris and Kelin editorialize. “It would also begin the long-overdue work of updating labor standards for the workplaces of a new century.”
Close to 2 million home care workers would be affected by the proposed rule, made even more important by the fact that home health and personal care is the second-fastest-growing job category in the country and projected to double by 2018.
Despite the critical benefits of a rule change, especially for the majority of home care workers who are women and immigrants, President Obama has faced Republican opposition. “On June 7, a dozen Senate Republicans, led by Mike Johanns of Nebraska, sought to pre-empt Mr. Obama’s initiative and consign home care workers to perpetual second-class status,” Boris and Klein explain. “In assuming that adequate care can come only from suppressing wages, these Republicans pit the interests of care receivers and givers against one another.
“This fight isn’t simply about the ability to earn the minimum wage or slightly more for working even longer hours; that would still keep home care workers poor,” the two professors conclude. “Its deeper possibility is the potential to reestablish some notion of labor standards, rights and security after decades of gutting them.”
Homecare workers held a day-long political education program combined with a barbecue in Lincoln Park just a few days before the June 5 election. The members who attended had a chance to talk about their working conditions and wage limitations, and to link these to the current state government.
Scott Walker has blocked collective bargaining rights, slashed funding for Medicaid, cut care hours for patients, and work hours for homecare workers, Alicia Treadwell told the assembled caregivers. As an icebreaker, the union members were asked to describe what they would say or do if they found themselves in a locked room with Scott Walker. “Ask him why he’s cutting hours for people who need care….” “Show him the crowded classrooms in our schools…” “Show him the children who end up in emergency rooms because they were cut off BadgerCare…” said another.
Most of those attending the barbecue signed COPE pledge forms, and promised to work to build a stronger union.
The barbecue began at noon for late shift workers, and stretched into the late afternoon to accommodate daytime workers.