Across the world on May 1, workers celebrated International Worker’s Day. Commemorating a Chicago strike in 1886, for an 8-hour work day, May 1st has come to represent a day of celebration for many, where workers participate in parades, festivals, and rallies.
Thousands rallied in Seattle on May Day to demand better protections for workers around the world and for comprehensive immigration reform.
International Worker’s Day 2013 takes on additional special meaning this year, as the drumbeat for immigration reform gets louder and louder.
SEIU locals and allies throughout the country are taking to the streets! Add your voice to the conversation on Twitter using hash tag #TimeIsNow.
Nursing home workers from across the state visited their legislators to urge them to approve Medicaid expansion to provide quality, affordable healthcare for all nursing home and long-term care workers. Many nursing home workers struggle to afford quality, affordable health coverage. The Legislature should adopt Medicaid Expansion to provide coverage to long-term care workers and our families. The program will include an influx of federal dollars that will result in the state saving $225 million in the current biennium. Plus, the program will create 10,000 new jobs in our state.
Tell the legislature to stand up for caregivers!
We’re joining hundreds of people with disabilities who plan to rally at the Capitol tomorrow, Feb. 20, to urge lawmakers to preserve their dignity and protect and invest in our state’s cost-effective home care program.
For many people with disabilities who receive home care, the ongoing state budget crisis brings the fear that they could be forced to live in institutions. People—including the clients we serve as home care aides—are able to remain in their homes thanks to Washington’s nationally recognized home care system. Home care aides are the backbone of this front-line health care delivery system, yet we work for meager wages—earning, on average, just more than $10 an hour.
Supporting vulnerable people is our career. We take pride in making sure the people we work with live with dignity. Many need help getting up, bathing and going to the toilet. We cook meals, do laundry and help these individuals take their prescriptions and navigate our health care system.
Yet two out of three home care aides in Washington currently live near or below federal poverty thresholds. That’s not right.
In 2011, desperate to find savings in the state budget, then-governor Chris Gregoire ordered the state Department of Social and Human Services to slash the number of hours allotted to people like our clients. Instead of using medical need to determine how much care a person should receive, the state turned to an arbitrary calculus that cut hours by an average of 10 percent. It was a desperate move that has led to human desperation.
We’ve also faced a wage freeze since 2008, which has made it harder for workers like us to keep working in the home care system.
Falls, profound declines in health, even hastened death may be the result of reduced hours and the worker recruitment and retention crisis caused by poverty wages. The effort to save money has cost untallied amounts in human suffering and avoidable hospital stays.
This year, the legislature will consider giving home care aides our first pay raise in more than five years. Far from extraordinary, the raise is just $.50 a year for two years. If this modest raise is approved, most caregivers can expect to earn close to $11/hour. Investing in the home care aide workforce will help improve worker recruitment and retention, improves quality and pumps dollars into local economies. It’s common sense.
In addition, the legislature is considering changes to the law that would re-establish assessed need as the priority when determining the allotment of caregiver hours. By eliminating the out-of-state sales tax exemption, the state could again afford to allow a person’s health to determine the amount of health care they receive.
Lawmakers may be able to look away from the hundreds of people with disabilities who will rally today outside the Capitol. They cannot deny the daily reality these citizens must face. Or the fact that our senior population is expected to double in the coming decade.
To best care for the most vulnerable, the Legislature must fund the home care aide contract and restore caregiver hours.
Sherry Hunter of Renton and Pamla McCarty of Centralia are home care aides with SEIU Healthcare 775NW.
A note from SEIU member Anna Volkersz
We need a Governor who will support homecare and nursing home workers. That’s why Steve Bullock is our choice for governor in Montana.
Steve took time out of his campaign to spend a day working with me and my client in Bozeman. He walked a day in my shoes, so he could better understand the stamina, dedication and professional service that caregivers like you and me give to their clients and residents. He assisted my client getting out of bed, bathing, dressing, doing laundry, cooking breakfast and doing the dishes.
After seeing Steve work with my client with care and compassion, I know that my vote is going to elect a governor who will stand with homecare aides and nursing home workers–not against us.
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.
Tim Eyman’s 2/3 Majority Requirement Ruled Unconstitutional
Tim Eyman’s 2/3 majority requirement for raising new state revenue is unconstitutional, according to King County Superior Court Judge Bruce E. Heller.
This case, by the way, is destined for the Washington State Supreme Court, and Attorney General Rob McKenna’s office has indicated it will help get it there by immediately appealing.
State Rep. Jamie Pedersen (D-43), who helped bring the lawsuit, says via e-mail:
I am thrilled that the court reached the merits of this question and recognized that Tim Eyman’s initiatives requiring supermajority votes to raise revenue are unconstitutional and are hampering our ability to fund public schools. I feel hopeful that the Supreme Court—fresh off of its decision that the legislature is failing to fund education adequately—will give us back the tools to do so.
And Eyman himself says, in an e-mail to supporters:
King County judge throws gasoline on the fire for Son of 1053.
If everyone paid their fair share, we’d have the resources we need to stop the cuts and create jobs by investing in the future of our communities.
On tax day, people across the country stood up for the 99%. They told corporations and Wall Street banks that it’s time they paid their fair share.
After years of families losing their homes to rich banks, they fought back and decided to hold its own foreclosure. We foreclosed on Wells Fargo, which foreclosed on tens of thousands of working families while dodging taxes. We told them to pay the $21 billion of corporate taxes they’ve managed to dodge.
Federal Way – Rob McKenna’s Monday press conference showed more than his efforts to interfere with the state budget; it was a chance for Washington’s working families to see what kind of “reforms” he would bring as governor. The plan he presented left many fearing that McKenna, as governor, would make Washington look a lot like Wisconsin.
McKenna revealed his true position on collective bargaining—proposing to weaken the entire process. On Monday, he proposed undermining the collective bargaining process for thousands of nurses, child care workers, home care workers, and other public employees and leaving these workers’ future to the mercy of a political budget process that even he claims has failed to produce results. And McKenna, who once voted against a motion “calling for fair wages and equitable treatment of workers seeking collective bargaining rights [King County Council Vote No. 10492, 7/6/98], is also aiming to increase health care costs for workers.
Workers from around the state had strong reactions to McKenna’s proposal.
“Home care workers have fought for increased wages, affordable health insurance and workers compensation, to help ensure qualified staff for our states’ long-term care programs, ” said Denese Wallace, a home care worker from Everett. “Still, most of us barely make $10 an hour and can’t afford a governor who wants to unilaterally increase health care costs and make it harder to receive a living wage. We can’t let Rob McKenna make Washington another Wisconsin.”
“Middle class workers are struggling enough without Rob McKenna’s attempts to increase our healthcare costs and weaken our collective bargaining,” said Chris Lakey, a clinical technologist from Seattle. “Our reforms need to be focused on increasing support for education and healthcare, not lowering the standards. The workers in this state cannot afford a Scott Walker.”
“Nurse consultants provide critical oversight to protect residents of nursing homes, boarding homes, and adult family homes – our collective bargaining rights are our patient advocacy voice,” said Cuca Botello, a nurse consultant from Yakima. “We enforce state and/or federal laws, and we make sure our residents have their basic human needs and healthcare needs met. Turning back the clock on our rights would mean we don’t have a voice in how our work is done, and that can jeopardize public safety and our role of protecting our residents. We won’t let Wisconsin happen here.”
Doug Crooks Linnae Riesen Sudha Nandagopal
SEIU Healthcare 775NW SEIU Healthcare1199NW SEIU 925
206-538-4504 425-306-2061 206-659-5079