SPOKANE, Wash. – A group of home-care workers is wishing a happy Mother’s Day to the moms in the Washington congressional delegation – with a twist. It’s part of a national effort to show support for immigration reform.
On Tuesday, Reps. Cathy McMorris Rogers and Jaime Herrera-Beutler received their cards and a visit from members of “Caring Across Generations.” A Spokane home-care worker, Valerie Anderson-Webb, said she spoke with McMorris Rogers a few years ago about the congresswoman’s concerns about providing workers a path to citizenship.
“Now, we are appealing to her as a mother that has children,” she said. “Four years ago, she wasn’t there. I think now, she’s at least thinking about it.”
The Mother’s Day cards urge members of Congress to remember other moms in the state, and to ensure that the legalization process is fair to women, family members and low-wage workers. Cards are also being delivered this week to Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray.
Anderson-Webb said she doesn’t see immigrants competing for current citizens’ jobs. Instead, she said, there’s a caregiving shortage that’s expected to worsen as the population ages. She said many immigrants already provide home-care services for Washingtonians with disabilities and the elderly.
“I believe that everyone’s created equal,” she said. “I really don’t think that they’re ‘illegal’ – because a lot of these people are contributing to society; they’re paying taxes as well as us. And there’s not enough caregivers to go around.”
Anderson-Webb said that in her union, SEIU Healthcare 775 Northwest, members speak 50 different languages. Among their priorities are living wages and creating a career ladder that allows home-care workers to train and transition into careers such as nursing and social work.
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Candidate for Governor, Jay Inslee, spent a day working alongside Sherry Hunter, a home care aide and her client Phyllis Green from Renton.
Sherry Hunter said that Jay Inslee did a great job completing her every-day tasks. “It’s great to have a candidate for governor who actually cares enough to spend a day in our shoes,” she said.
“I learned a lot today. I’m going to stand by you and the long-term care services you provide,” said Inslee during his caregiving walk-a-day.
Sherry provides care for Phyllis Green, a 75-year-old woman who is an amputee and diabetic. Mrs. Green has lived for 49 years with her husband Paul Green in their two-bedroom home in Renton, WA. Both Mrs. and Mr. Green worked all their lives, and living at home is what keeps them upbeat and sustained.
During his day working with Sherry Hunter, Inslee cleaned house, did the laundry, vacuumed, helped her client get ready for her bath and washed her hair. Inslee was able to see first hand, how hard home care aides work and the importance of the services that they provide.
In an interview, Inslee shares with our union members how critical long-term care programs are for the state of Washington, the difference they make in the lives of clients who rely on these services and what he learned from walking a day in shoes of Sherry Hunter.
What did you learn the most from walking a day in a caregiver’s shoes?
Seeing Sherry’s work, what is really impressive to me is how much her client appreciates her and her work. The personal interaction is one of the more impressive aspects. Obviously, this is hard work. Sherry has showed me how she has to multi-task. She has to heat the water for a bath, get the bed ready, making sure her client can get from one place to another, and vacuum in a very compressed period of time. She has a lot of work that she has to do in only a few hours. She only works with her client for three hours, three days a week.
Also talking to Sherry about her training that she’s had to help her to recognize wounds and bedsores. That’s why I’ve always been a believer in training for folks for this kind of work. Both of those are important and it looks like Sherry knows how to do it.
What can we do to support long term care programs that save the state money in the long term?
I am running for governor, I hope to be the next governor of the state of Washington. It was really important getting in a person’s home to see first hand what long term care means in their lives. Sherry’s client was a hard working person and now to live in dignity in her own home is a real great thing for the state. What we can do is get more legislators and policy makers to understand why it is important.
This is good for the taxpayer too to keep people independent, so they don’t have to go to a home. We do this well in the state of Washington and it actually saves taxpayer’s money in the long term. That’s why having adequate provision is important, Sherry has told me that her client could use more hours to really do what needs to be done around here. Keeping that in mind in these budget discussions is important.
What difference do caregivers make in the state of Washington?
We all treasure our independence, we all treasure our freedom and living in your own home is both. Living at home is both your independence and freedom. Having a person like Sherry to give people that opportunity for additional years that’s a pretty sweet thing. It’s hard to measure in dollars and cents, but this care is what makes life worth living a lot. This is a really valuable thing for a lot of people across the state.
More than 11,000 home care workers get affordable health, dental, and vision benefits through the union contract and the Health Benefits Trust. But thousands of caregivers still lack any coverage – many have lost coverage because of hours cuts.
Our bargaining team made our proposal on health benefits yesterday, including:
At the bargaining session, numerous members shared their powerful stories of how lack of access insurance has affected them. Rhonda Paul, bargaining team member shared the story of how she lost her health insurance following cuts in her client’s hours. “Because of the cuts, I lost my health insurance. I’m seeing my clients suffer,” she said.
Last month, we began bargaining for a new contract covering more than 30,000 individual home care providers, with SEIU Healthcare 775NW presenting member priorities and some initial proposals to the governor’s bargaining team. During the sessions, our union laid the groundwork for our three primary goals: moving workers away from poverty, preserving our health insurance benefits, and restoring access to continuing education and advanced training.
We will continue to build a movement of caregivers standing for long-term care and a fair economy. Washington’s most vulnerable thank you for protecting critical services like home care. For more information call our member resource center at 1-866-371-3200.
During their “walk-a-days,” the city council members worked along side caregiver, assisting with many of their duties. We interviewed the council members, caregivers and clients about the need for long-term care and how it can make a difference in the lives of millions of clients who rely on critical services.
In Washington State, the amount of people needing homecare will increase in future years, with the number of seniors doubling to 1.5 million in the next 15 years. In response to the increasing need for homecare in Washington State and throughout the country, Seattle City Council members Nick Licata and Mike O’Brien are supporting the Caring Across Generations Resolution that addresses the lack of affordable quality care options for the elderly and people with disability, and the need to life caregivers out of poverty.
The Caring Across Generations Resolution was passed, making Seattle the first city in the country to pass local legislation around the issue of protecting critical services for our most vulnerable: people with disabilities and older Americans.
Home is what sustains Greg Majesky, a Seattle resident and quadriplegic who needs assistance in many of his everyday activities. Lawrence Chandler, a homecare provider and SEIU Healthcare 775NW member has cared for Majesky since 2008. Having a stable caregiver has improved his quality of life, says Majesky.
On June 5, Seattle City Council Member Mike O’Brien, walked a day in Lawrence Chandler’s shoes to shed light on the growing need in the Seattle area for homecare programs. He is joining a movement of policy makers, community activists, clients and caregivers who are advocating for dignity, respect and freedom for our seniors and people with disabilities and those who work hard to care for them.
City Council Member O’Brien visited Majesky’s home, arriving on bicycle despite the rain, to accompany Chandler in many of the tasks he performs everyday as a caregiver. From fixing a cup of tea, preparing breakfast, doing the dishes, administering medication, assisting Majesky in transferring out of his bed to his wheelchair to preparing Majesky for his shower that he gets three times a week.
Putting the spotlight on the growing care crisis in America, Seattle City Council Member Nick Licata walked in the shoes of Janet Rodriguez - a home care provider and SEIU Healthcare 775NW member. During his “walk-a-day,” Mr. Licata worked along side Janet, assisting with many of her duties as a caregiver.
Janet has provided care for the same Seattle client for more than 15-years, and faces many challenges due to lack of support for quality long-term care.
Bargaining for a new contract covering more than 30,000 individual home care providers got underway on April 26, with SEIU Healthcare 775NW presenting member priorities and some initial proposals to the governor’s bargaining team.
Washington legislature passed a budget with no new cuts to the long-term care safety net! Our calls, emails and in-person lobbying—literally by hundreds and hundreds of SEIU Healthcare 775NW members—made a difference.
This is a huge victory. The final budget includes no new cuts to long-term care and increases funding for Initiative 1163.
What a difference our advocacy efforts made; initial budget proposals would have eliminated adult day health, cut home care agencies so deeply that they would be put out of business, and included changes to eligibility that would have meant more than 1,000 people losing home care services.
In addition, legislators passed a bill to create 29,000 new jobs and legislation that closes some tax loopholes for out-of-state banks.
For months, we’ve been fighting to stop cuts to long-term care. We’ve written letters, sent emails, made thousands of phone calls and marched in Olympia. We have told them to raise revenue and close tax loopholes. And we’ve told them to save money by cracking down on Medicaid fraud by huge pharmaceutical companies.
Today, thanks to our advocacy work and support, Gov. Gregoire signed the Medicaid Fraud False Claims Act securing transparency in Medicaid spending.
In the past few months, we testified in two hearings to pass the Medicaid Fraud False Claims Act that will ensure accountability and transparency for every dollar spent on Medicaid. “Through your advocacy efforts we played a key role in passing this bill that ensures the public’s money goes to providing Medicaid services and not on fraud,” said caregiver and SEIU Healthcare 775NW member Chelsea Hensley.
“We have called on the legislature to find budget solutions that protect Washington’s most vulnerable,” said Adam Glickman-Flora, SEIU Healthcare 775NW vice president and director of public affairs. “This historic legislation is a step in the right direction, now we need to keep fighting to pass a final budget that protects critical services.”
Caregivers and clients are sharing their powerful and painful stories of how cuts have affected them. Day in and day out we care for our clients, often giving many hours without pay and usually without enough to keep our families out of poverty.
On Feb. 28, the Senate Democrats released a budget that had no cuts to home care hours, home care agencies or adult day health. Like the House version, this budget shows how our months of efforts have created a consensus in Olympia to stop cuts.
We’ve made major progress to stop cuts to long-term care in the legislature—our phone calls, letter writing and lobbying in Olympia have brought a new budget proposal. Now let’s thank our senators and urge them to pass a final budget that preserves vital services for seniors and people with disabilities.
As we reach the home-stretch in a long fight during this legislative session, we urge you to take a moment to thank your legislator for drafting a budget proposal that closes our budget gap, while maintaining many of the vital services that have faced deep cuts over the last few years.
The cuts to home care and long-term care are positive steps. We still need to work to preserve our long-term care ombudsman so that there is an advocate for nursing home residents and there are still two policy items that raise serious concerns because they could create long waiting lists for home care and restructure Medicaid personal care.
Long-term care is a critical service relied on by thousands of Washington’s most vulnerable and makes it easier for families to continue caring for their loved ones at home. As we watch our aging population grow, a strong home and community-based long-term care system will be more cost-effective and better for the thousands of people who rely on these services.
We’ve made huge headway to stop cuts to long-term care in the legislature. But our fight isn’t over and we now need to encourage the Senate to pass a final budget that protects our most vulnerable.
Over 30 protestors would not leave the office until DSHS faxed our letter to the Secretary Treasurer calling for DSHS to reverse the cuts that will result in unsafe and deteriorated conditions for thousands of clients across Washington state.