Media

SEIU 775 in the News: Long-Term Care Trust Act and Guardianship

Guardianship Process to Be Streamlined in WA

Washington News Service
May 16, 2019

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(Please click through here to listen to the radio version of this story.)

SEATTLE – Washington state lawmakers passed bills this session to make the guardianship application process easier for parents.

Sterling Harders, president of SEIU 775, says her union represents thousands of parents who take care of children with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

She says she’s heard from members that when their children turned 18 the path to guardianship was complex and expensive, often requiring a lawyer to understand the process. It also differs from county to county.

Harders says two pieces of legislation are addressing these issues, easing some of the burden for parents.

“Life is difficult enough for these folks having to take care of special needs kids,” she states. “They don’t need one more thing to worry about, and so we are really hopeful that these two bills will make life just a little easier for parent providers.”

The Uniform Guardianship Act, Senate Bill 5604, will standardize the guardianship process across the state’s 39 counties and create a monitoring system and model training program.

The bill currently is on Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk.

The other measure, House Bill 1329, creates alternatives to full legal guardianship. The bill was signed in April and goes into effect at the end of July.

“In today’s world, you’re either an incapacitated person or you’re a person that is not incapacitated with full legal rights, and creating an opportunity for there to be some different options within that continuum, I think, is very important,” [Beigert] states.

Shannon Beigert, the mother of two children with very different needs, is the legal guardian for her daughter, who has an intellectual disability. Her son has autism, which manifests in challenging and oppositional behavior to her and her husband and has led to third-party guardianship of him.

Beigert says one-size-fits-all laws around guardianship don’t work well for people as different as her two children.

“In today’s world, you’re either an incapacitated person or you’re a person that is not incapacitated with full legal rights, and creating an opportunity for there to be some different options within that continuum, I think, is very important,” she states.

Beigert says she appreciates Washington state lawmakers’ capacity to help the state’s most vulnerable.


Washington State Has Created the Nation’s First Social-Insurance Program for Long-Term Care

The Nation
May 13, 2019

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When Americans age or need help with the basic tasks of living, they often have no one to turn to but their family members. A groundbreaking program in Washington will change that for residents of the state.

About three years ago, Ruth Egger’s father got up to go to the bathroom in the night. When he tried to get back into bed, he fell, breaking his hip. The painful recovery, during which he used a walker, sent him into a depression. “Since then, he’s gone downhill,” Egger said. He suffers from memory loss, had gallbladder surgery, and now needs help dressing, showering, and even taking medication.

Egger’s parents, both in their early 90s, are fortunate enough to be able to afford to live in an assisted-living facility in Issaquah, Washington. But their rent is climbing while their income stays fixed, forcing them to draw from their savings. That has made them unwilling to pay for the extra services available at their facility that could really make a difference for them, including help with chores and assistance for Egger’s father with his daily tasks. Without another adult present, Egger’s mother is afraid to leave her husband to go to the pool or exercise classes in case he falls again. “My mother suffers because she has to do everything,” Egger said. “I would feel so much happier if they had somebody at least once a week come in so [she] would feel like she could leave and go to the doctor or do what she needs to do and not worry about him…. It would give her some relief.” But, she adds, “They are just so frightened of not having enough money.”

Without professional assistance, Egger picks up the slack; she drives a half hour each way once a week from where she lives in Seattle to spend time with her father so her mother can leave their apartment for a bit. She’s taken over doing their bills and goes with them to doctor appointments. She feels the strain. “Emotionally, it’s extremely difficult,” she said. Egger now suffers from her own depression. “I worry about them a great deal.”

A policy about to become law in Washington State, the first of its kind, would offer relief to people in Egger’s parents’ position—and to her as well. The Long Term Care Trust Act, which passed the state legislature at the end of April and will be signed into law by Governor Jay Inslee on Monday, establishes the country’s first social-insurance program to pay for long-term care. All residents will pay 58 cents on every $100 of income into the state’s trust. After state residents have paid into the fund for ten years—three if they experience a catastrophic disabling event—they’ll be able to tap $100 a day up to a lifetime cap of $36,500 when they need help with daily activities such as eating, bathing, or dressing.

The money can be spent in a variety of ways. It could cover a home health aide to provide periodic support and care. But it could also be used to install an accessible shower in someone’s home or a ramp so they can get in and out of their front door more easily. It could cover transportation costs to and from medical appointments or to have food delivered to someone who is homebound.

The Long Term Care Trust Act will “help ensure that the caregivers who are providing this care are skilled, that they are trained, that they are certified, that they are paid fairly for the work that they’re doing,” said Harders.

If her parents had access to a fund like that, “they wouldn’t have to worry” about paying for extra help, Egger said. And Egger herself could relax just a bit. “I would know that [my mother] has someone else to help her instead of just me.”

A recently retired gerontologist, Egger has seen the need for such a policy among the clients she used to work with. One client’s husband had ALS and eventually needed a tracheostomy, which meant his trachea and airway needed to be regularly suctioned. The burden fell on his wife to be at his side constantly in case he needed care. “They didn’t have the resources to hire a nurse…so she could get a break for four hours a week,” Egger recalled. Another of her clients who used a wheelchair after a stroke couldn’t afford to add a ramp to get in and out of his house. The new fund could have enabled him to pay to build a ramp and grant him access to the outside world.

But the long-term-care fund won’t bring relief only to the elderly. A younger person who suffers an unexpected injury or illness could similarly hire someone to help him in his home. Those with disabilities, and the family members who support them, can help cover some of their more episodic needs, particularly for individuals whose needs aren’t severe enough to require living in a facility. “It expands options for people who are in need of care, aging adults, or people with disabilities,” said Sarita Gupta, co-director of Caring Across Generations, which advocated for the legislation.

The payroll premium will collect about $1 billion each year for the dedicated trust fund. “This structure will only help support the work that we’ve done here in Washington to help professionalize caregivers,” noted Sterling Harders, president of SEIU 775, which represents home health workers. While her members had already secured a $15 minimum wage, affordable health insurance, and a retirement benefit in Washington, across the country their peers mostly earn less than that and have little access to benefits. The Long Term Care Trust Act will “help ensure that the caregivers who are providing this care are skilled, that they are trained, that they are certified, that they are paid fairly for the work that they’re doing,” said Harders.

Building a constituency to demand long-term-care insurance requires educating Americans about how neglected this need currently is. Some Americans may erroneously believe that, when they reach old age, Medicare will cover the cost of any long-term care they may need. In fact, Medicare only covers medical needs, not living supports like home health aides or nursing homes. Elders with low enough incomes—depending on the state, anywhere from $6,825 to $47,139 a year—qualify for Medicaid, which does cover nursing-home costs. Those with greater resources must first spend down their savings and assets in order to qualify. They also must demonstrate they have a need for nursing-home care. And some state Medicaid programs don’t cover in-home care, while some of those that do cap the number of people who can get it.

“The system right now is quite narrow, and it requires individuals to basically impoverish themselves to be able to access any coverage,” said Elaine Ryan, vice president of state advocacy and strategy integration at the AARP. There is private long-term-care insurance, but few people have it. The cost of the premiums has become very expensive over the past decade, and people with pre-existing conditions, including dementia and Alzheimer’s, are unable to purchase a policy. So, Ryan explained, “tens of millions of Americans live their lives outside of all of those systems.”

Instead, most people rely on family members or, in some cases, friends to provide them with that care. Among adults with an aging parent who needs care, 31 percent provide it themselves, while 39 percent say another family member does. That places a tremendous burden on the caregivers. Even if someone can take paid time off from work to care for a family member—Washington State guarantees residents 12 weeks of paid family leave—some medical needs may be better handled by a professional. Not to mention it’s hard to do it alone. In one 2015 report, nearly 40 percent of caregivers said it was emotionally stressful, while about 20 percent said they experienced physical or financial strains.

“To date, elected officials have really failed to come up with a plan,” Gupta said. “In the absence of that we see families really struggling to meet their caregiving needs.”

Washington State’s policy, which Ryan calls a “breakthrough piece of legislation,” took years of dedicated, unglamorous work. “We worked with a really broad coalition,” Harders noted, which included organizations like hers representing home health workers, disability-rights advocates, and advocates for the elderly like the AARP. The mix of all those voices united behind a single request helped sway lawmakers. “It made a huge difference that they were standing together,” Gupta noted.

“What really was effective at helping unite us all is that everyone can look down the road and see that we are headed towards a crisis,” Harders explained. As the American population ages, more and more will need help. By allowing people to spend smaller amounts on the kinds of things they might need to safely and comfortably keep living at home, more people should avoid tapping Medicaid to pay for long-term care—which would not just save government funds, but give people what most of them say they want. “It will allow people to take care of those episodic periods where they need that support,” Ryan said. “Most people need something, but not all people need everything…. The idea that everyone’s going to end up in a nursing home can’t be the future that we imagine.”

The amount state residents are eligible for isn’t huge, given that it’s capped at $36,500. If a person needs a few hours of in-home care each week, that means a year or two of coverage. The sum won’t cover a full-time nursing home, which can cost $10,000 a month; a person who needs that will still need to turn to Medicaid for financial help.

“What really was effective at helping unite us all is that everyone can look down the road and see that we are headed towards a crisis,” Harders explained.

But the cap will rise automatically every year as inflation rises. The architects of the legislation were trying to find “a number adequate enough to meet people’s needs and at the same time not be catastrophic if everybody [made claims] at the same time,” Ryan explained. “To make it actuarially sound so people could be guaranteed a benefit.”

The policy’s universal structure and funding is also significant. All working people will pay into the fund through a payroll tax and then be able to claim a benefit when they need it. The same structure has “stood the test of time” with Social Security and Medicare, Ryan noted. Politically speaking, “it mattered a lot that it was set up as a social-insurance program,” Caring Across Generations’ Gupta said. And it ensures everyone will have some cushion when they need it—important given how few people are saving or planning for long-term care. “We have to shift [from] perceiving care as an individual burden to a shared responsibility we all have a stake in,” Gupta said. “This legislation in Washington is a big step toward that end.”

That differs from a failed ballot measure in Maine, which would have guaranteed universal home health care for all disabled and elderly people in the state by levying a new 3.8-percent tax on the wealthy. It’s also different than the Kupuna Care program in Hawaii, which was launched in 2017. That program similarly gives people a daily fund to cover these kinds of needs, but the money comes from the state’s general budget. That means every few years legislators have to decide how much funding to devote to it and that its capacity is limited.

Washington’s social-insurance model could spread if it’s successful after it’s enacted. Similar legislation is being considered in California, Illinois, and Michigan, Ryan said, and advocates in Maine are now looking at legislative options.

“It’s a good model that we’re going to explore in other states,” Gupta said, “and build towards a bigger picture of universal family care being a broader social-insurance program.”

Long-term care is also a facet of the Medicare for All bill put forward in Congress by Representative Pramila Jayapal in February—something the current system doesn’t cover, nor is included in Senator Bernie Sanders’s version. Jayapal’s bill would provide coverage for long-term nursing-home and care services.

Without new programs like Washington’s, families will keep shouldering huge financial and emotional burdens as they care for their loved ones, while many people will struggle to afford the kind of care they want and need. “We don’t think that in a wealthy nation like we live in that’s the way it has to be,” Gupta said. “Having more creative and bold solutions like this [is] going to be really critical.”


Washington Becomes First State to Approve Publicly Funded Long-Term Care

The Intercept
April 26, 2019

file1-1-cropWashington State Lawmakers on Tuesday passed the nation’s first long-term care benefit program, which would provide residents with up to $36,500 to pay for costs like caregiving, wheelchair ramps, meal deliveries, and nursing home fees. Jay Inslee, Democratic governor and 2020 presidential candidate, has said he intends to sign the Long-Term Care Trust Act into law.

The measure is hailed as a monumental achievement not only for Washingtonians, but also for advocates working nationally to tackle the rising and formidable costs of care work and old age, something that’s become only more pressing as the baby boomer generation heads into retirement. The Long-Term Care Trust Act comes on the heels of a novel cash benefit program Hawaii launched in 2017 that distributes $70 a day for up to 365 days to family caregivers. A growing number of states have passed paid sick leave policies over the last five years, and more presidential candidates are elevating the issue of child care and how to afford it. Washington Rep. Pramila Jayapal’s new Medicare for All bill even includes coverage of long-term care, something not currently provided by the federal insurance program.

The ultimate goal, advocates say, is some kind of universal family care, a comprehensive social infrastructure to support all the varied costs of care work from birth to death. “That’s our North Star,” said Sarita Gupta, co-director of Caring Across Generations, a national campaign that launched in 2011. “We have really been trying to help people go from seeing care work as an individual burden to a shared responsibility that we’re all going to face.”

With the Long-Term Care Trust Act, taxpayers expect to save $3.9 billion in state Medicaid costs by 2052. The bill had bipartisan support early on, including three Republican co-sponsors, but it was approved largely along party lines in the Democratic-controlled legislature. Advocates for the bill said that Republicans voted against it for political reasons amid heated budget negotiations, and not because they disagreed with it in substance.

“We first started talking about long-term care about 10 years ago, because the funding system is really broken and because we’re focused on lifting caregivers out of poverty,” said Sterling Harders, president of SEIU 775.

Republican Reps. Drew MacEwen and Paul Harris, both original co-sponsors, told The Intercept that they support the intent of the bill but could not get behind its final provisions. “Although we had concerns about the original draft, we signed onto the bill in an effort to support the dialogue. With more people living longer, the cost of long-term care has to be addressed,” they wrote in a statement. “However, being first in the nation to create such a program, it’s important we get it right. In the end, we felt that the cost to taxpayers outweighed the long-term benefit.”

IN SOME WAYS, it makes sense that the groundbreaking long-term care legislation would originate in Washington, which has been leading the country in progressive policies. In 2013, the small town of SeaTac, which surrounds the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, voted to increase its minimum wage to $15 an hour. This marked the first real policy win for the nascent Fight for $15 movement. Seattle would become the first major U.S. city to approve a $15 minimum wage a year later. In 2016, voters approved a state ballot measure to raise Washington’s minimum wage and establish a paid sick leave program. The same year, SEIU 775, which represents 45,000 long-term care workers in Washington and Montana, negotiated a home care worker retirement benefit, the first of its kind in the nation.

“We first started talking about long-term care about 10 years ago, because the funding system is really broken and because we’re focused on lifting caregivers out of poverty,” said Sterling Harders, president of SEIU 775, which helped push for the bill. Harders said the union’s work began with commissioning studies, followed by many years of slow coalition-building. “I think it’s easy to forget on days like this when I’m jumping up and down celebrating our victory that we’ve essentially been working on this for the past decade, and intensely for the past three years,” she said. “This is really the end of a long road.”

The bill works like this: Beginning in 2022, workers will pay a modest monthly payroll tax, 58 cents for every $100 they earn in income. The per capita average income in Washington is about $37,000, meaning that the average monthly contribution would be about $18. Those who pay into the program for three years, or for a total of 10 years including five consecutive years, will be able to access the benefit, which, at present, maxes out at $36,500. In 30 years, as it’s indexed for inflation, the benefit will be more than $88,000.

The $36,500 could pay for respite care, in-home caregiving, time in a nursing home or assisted living facility, home modifications like constructing a wheelchair ramp, and other elderly care expenses.

The legislation was first considered by lawmakers in 2018, but at the last minute, the state’s chapter of the American Association of Retired Persons, or AARP, withdrew its support, citing disputes over details like eligibility for qualifying as a caregiver. Members of civil rights, disability, senior, and health care groups who organized under the banner of Washingtonians for a Responsible Future reconvened this year to hash out compromises.

“I think what changed this year is that coalition members just met more and worked more closely to hear each other’s concerns,” said Janet Kim, a spokesperson for Caring Across Generations. “The resulting policy is more comprehensive and flexible than what was considered in 2018.”

Legislators worked on the bill with a few key facts in mind: Caregiving is an increasingly stressful burden for not only seniors, but also for their family members. Nationally, relatives spend an average of 20 percent of their own money on caregiving costs, according to the AARP, and often have to leave their jobs, sacrificing hundreds of thousands of dollars in income and benefits. A 2018 Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll found that approximately two-thirds of adults support a long-term care program like Medicare, including 76 percent of Democrats and 56 percent of Republicans.

In addition, legislators grappled with the mounting strain on the state’s budget. Seventy percent of Americans end up needing long-term care after turning 65, and more than 90 percent of people do not have private long-term care insurance. While Medicare does not cover the cost of most long-term care services, many individuals don’t realize this until it’s too late. Medicaid, however, does cover long-term care services, but to access it, individuals have to deplete their assets until they have less than $2,000 in savings, a system that literally incentivizes going into poverty. As Washington’s population gets older, actuaries have projected that the state’s Medicaid-funded long-term care program would almost double to $4.01 billion annually by 2030.

RUTH EGGER, A 65-year-old retiree in Seattle and a part-time caregiver for her parents, has advocated for the bill since it was first introduced. Though she and her parents, who are in their 90s, are unlikely to directly benefit from the Long-Term Care Trust Act, she said her personal experience as a caregiver and her professional experience as a social worker motivated her to fight for the legislation. She personally testified in support of the bill last year and this year before the Washington State Legislature.

Egger’s father fell and broke his hip a few years ago, which brought on debilitating depression. “My father temporarily lost the ability to dress himself, and if he had had access to this benefit, he would have been able to pay for an aide to come help him,” she said. “It was exhausting watching him trying to figure out how to get his clothes on, and at that point, it would have been really beneficial if he had access to this extra money.”

“Caregivers are really members of a larger health care team; they spend hours and hours with the person they’re taking care of, they know when that person has changes in their health condition, when someone is losing weight, when someone gets dizzy, but it’s really a struggle for caregivers to be taken seriously as health care professionals,” Harders said. “That’s part of why this bill is so important for our union because we feel this is a step down the path of making sure caregivers are given the respect they deserve.”

Egger also stresses that so-called orphan elders — single seniors, or seniors who never had children or have children who live across the country or abroad — are also in particular need for long-term care assistance. “They get old and they have no support to help them, and they may need someone to come in twice a week and help them bathe or set up their medication,” she explained.

Washington’s benefit could also prove beneficial to the long-term care insurance industry. “Those companies didn’t expect people to live so long and to pay out so much, so fewer companies are writing those [long-term care] plans,” said Egger. Some experts think that the Long-Term Care Trust Act will make the economics of supplemental long-term care insurance plans more feasible, similar to the supplemental private Medicare insurance that 13 million Americans currently pay for. A recent article in Forbes reported that insurance industry officials expressed interest “in developing products” to supplement what Washington state is proposing.

Ultimately, Harders sees the Long-Term Care Trust Act as not just providing a needed economic benefit, but also as one more step toward elevating the field of caregiving, which is largely dominated by unpaid or low-wage women and people of color.

“Caregivers are really members of a larger health care team; they spend hours and hours with the person they’re taking care of, they know when that person has changes in their health condition, when someone is losing weight, when someone gets dizzy, but it’s really a struggle for caregivers to be taken seriously as health care professionals,” Harders said. “That’s part of why this bill is so important for our union because we feel this is a step down the path of making sure caregivers are given the respect they deserve.”

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2019 Washington Legislature: When we show up, we win!

After four months and hundreds of caregivers and self-advocates traveling to Olympia to tell their stories and explain to legislators the importance of the legislation we’ve been fighting for, the Washington State Legislative Session has ended and we have a lot to celebrate!

  • Our Caregiver Contract was fully funded with Parity for Agency Caregivers
  • The Long-Term Care Trust Act was passed
  • Both the Alternatives to Guardianship Bill (HB 1329) and the Uniform Guardianship Act (SB 5604) were passed and funded
  • The administrative rate was increased for homecare agencies
  • A pilot project to provide home care services to our vulnerable seniors and persons with disabilities in homeless shelters was funded

All of this was possible because caregivers from across the state came together to stand up for themselves, their clients, and each other. When we show up, we win!When we show up, we win!

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Individual Providers hit $15 milestone!

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(Please click through here to listen to the radio version of this story.)

February 1, 2019
SEATTLE – Today marks a major achievement for Washington state caregivers in the “Fight for 15.” In-home caregivers represented by Service Employees International Union Local 775 will receive their first paychecks that reflect wages of at least $15 an hour.

Workers started earning the new wage on January 1st, with the most experienced receiving more than $18 an hour.

Desirae Hernandez gave up her job to take care of her father – and after her son was born, became a file-16caregiver. With the pay raise, Hernandez says she won’t have to make tough decisions like choosing between medicine and car payments, and could even save to take her son on a trip.

“He said, ‘Mom, I know we’re not rich with money right now – we are rich with love – but one day when we get rich with money, can we go to Disneyland?’ And so, that’s one of things that I’m hopeful for [with] this raise – to save a little bit of money to do something like that with him,” says Hernandez.

SEIU 775, the State of Washington and individual providers agreed to a contract in 2017 to raise workers’ wages every six months for two years. The union represents more than 45,000 long-term caregivers in the Evergreen State and Montana.

Hernandez says fair compensation is crucial for keeping people in this much-needed profession.

“It’s hard to get enough people to be able to do this job because they could be making more money somewhere else,” says Hernandez. “And that’s sad, because it’s going to end up costing people dignity and our state so much more money if we can’t keep this profession filled with certified people.”

The Fight for 15 has swept the nation since New York fast-food workers in 2012 demanded living wages. Since then, 22 million workers across the country have secured $68 million dollars in wages, according to the National Employment Law Project.

SeaTac and Seattle were among the first cities to adopt $15-an-hour minimum wages.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service – WA

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CAREGIVERS STARTING WAGE HITS $15

 

Home care workers at SEIU 775 have worked long and hard for wage reforms that have benefited other workers for years

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

SEATTLE (Jan. 31, 2019) — In-home caregivers represented by SEIU 775 are reaching a milestone on Feb. 1 – the first paychecks when all caregivers are paid at least $15 an hour.

Caregivers have been at the forefront of the movement to establish a $15 minimum wage in SeaTac, Seattle, and across the United States. Since SeaTac passed a $15 minimum-wage measure, 22 million workers nationwide have seen $68 billion in wage increases (National Employment Law Project: “Impact of the Fight  for $15: $68 billion in Raises, 22 Million Workers”) thanks to local and state minimum-wage increases.

“We’ve been marching, rallying, and lobbying for this for years. I’m proud that caregivers now have a starting wage of $15 an hour,” said SEIU 775 President Sterling Harders.

Under union contracts negotiated between SEIU 775 and Washington State and private home care agencies, the starting wage for thousands of in-home caregivers increased to $15 an hour as of Jan. 1, 2019, which will be reflected on their Feb. 1 paychecks. Union-represented home care aides have a wage scale based on experience, and the most experienced caregivers with advanced training will earn more than $18 an hour.

Many caregivers gave up higher-paid work to take care of an elderly parent or child with a disability, so this increase not only compensates caregivers more fairly, but also ensures a decent quality of life for families who may have lost the income of their primary wage-earner.

“It’s a situation any of us could find ourselves in, so Washingtonians should feel good knowing that when our families face difficult times, a trained, dedicated caregiver will be there for us,” said Harders.

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SEIU 775 represents more than 45,000 long-term care workers providing quality in-home care, nursing home care and adult day health services in Washington State and Montana. Our mission is to unite the strength of all working people and our families, to improve our lives and lead the way to a more just and humane world.

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SEIU 775 Caregivers Vote Yes on 2019-2021 Home Care Contract with the State of Washington

2018 IP Bargaining Team

Contract includes wage increases, healthcare, and increase for retirement; Top pay over $20/hr

SEATTLE, WA – Today, SEIU 775 caregivers overwhelmingly ratified their 2019-2021 home care contract with the State of Washington. This biannual contract was negotiated between Washington State and the SEIU 775, the Union was represented by a bargaining team comprised of 13 caregivers from across the state. The contract will improve conditions for not only state-paid home care providers but also caregivers at private home care agencies that contract with Medicaid, meaning over 45,000 Washington caregivers will be impacted.

The new contract includes:

  • Wage increases of at least 8 percent for all state paid caregivers over the two years of the contract
  • By June 2021, minimum hourly wages will be $16.72, and the top hourly wage with advanced training will be over $20 an hour
  • Funding to cover healthcare inflation and protect caregiver healthcare
  • Designated funds to continue and expand vital retention and safety programs like, “Caregiver Kicks” slip resistant safety shoes for caregivers
  • Full funding for the statewide caregiver job matching app CarinaCare.com
  • A new Advanced Behavioral Home Care Aide Specialist program to provide advanced training in working with clients with significant behavioral health problems
  • An increase to the caregiver retirement fund, the first of its kind in the nation

“This contract is, yet again, one of the best homecare contracts in the nation,” said SEIU 775 President Sterling Harders, in the first week of her administration. “The AARP ranks Washington as the best state in the nation for long-term care, and having a stable quality home care workforce is one of the main reason why. Caregivers deserve a contract that minimizes turnover by providing healthcare, retirement and a living wage.”

“This contract gives me and my fellow members security. It is why I choose to be a part of the bargaining team,” said home care provider and bargaining team member, Darryl Johnson, a caregiver from Auburn. “We all want to be able to say we feel appreciated after a long day on the job, we all believe that being a caregiver is a title worthy of dignity and respect, and this contract makes that clear.”

Now that the contract has been ratified, it needs to be funded by the Washington State Legislature during the 2019 legislative session.

“Time and time again, caregivers have shown that they will always work to improve the conditions of the people they care for, and other caregivers,” said Adam Glickman, SEIU 775 Secretary-Treasurer and Chief Negotiator. “During the legislative session, caregivers will make sure every single member of the Washington State legislature knows that funding the contract means Washington will be able to recruit and retain caregiver to serve the growing number of seniors and people with disabilities that need care.”

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SEIU 775 represents more than 45,000 long-term care workers providing quality in-home care, nursing home care and adult day health services in Washington State and Montana.

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David Rolf: ‘Learn, Lead, and Leave’ — Why our Local Union opted for Officer Term Limits

In 2002, I became the founding president of SEIU 775, the union for home care and nursing home workers in Washington State and Montana. Having started organizing right out of college in 1992, it had been an incredible privilege to lead two historic union organizing victories early in my career — the campaign to win union recognition for 74,000 Los Angeles home care aides in 1999, and 25,000 Washington home care aides in 2002. But thenbecoming an elected labor leader in a major union at the age of 33 was the honor and awesome responsibility of a lifetime.

At the end of this month, I’ll be turning over the leadership of SEIU 775 to my successor. Not because I’m retiring from the workforce (I’m 48, healthy, and certainly not wealthy) and not because our members are seeking different leadership. I’m leaving because, back in its infancy, our union had the foresight and courage to adopt term limits for its top elected leaders. And so for me, leaving the best job any organizer or activist could ever have will be an act of conscience, of joy, and of personal and organizational renewal. I couldn’t be happier, or more proud.

To read David’s full post on Medium click here

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Sterling Harders Elected President of SEIU 775 as Founding President David Rolf Reaches the End of His Term

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Previously Vice President, Harders Takes on New Role After 14 Years as a Leader and Organizer with the Union

SEATTLE, WA, September 7, 2018 – Caregivers from Washington and Montana have elected Sterling Harders as the new president of SEIU 775, the long-term care workers’ union, by an overwhelming majority. Harders’ election comes after Founding President David Rolf reaches his officer term limits set when he and other members wrote SEIU 775’s Constitution and Bylaws in 2003. Other officers elected with Harders include current Secretary-Treasurer Adam Glickman, newly elected Vice Presidents Andrew Beane and Memo Rivera, and 33 rank-and-file members of SEIU 775. A full list of executive-board members is available at: www.seiu775.org/leadership.

When SEIU 775 was founded, caregivers campaigned to be “invisible no more.” Under Rolf’s leadership, caregivers have gone from making a little more than $7 an hour with no benefits, to having wages that have at least doubled, healthcare, paid time off, sick leave, professional training, and retirement benefits. Once described as “obscure and scrappy,” 775 is regularly described as one of the most powerful political forces in the states of Washington and Montana.

Rolf has been a force for change locally and across the country through 775’s work on the Fight for $15 and through his leadership on the future of work and the future of U.S. labor movements. A longtime supporter of officer term limits, Rolf will continue his efforts to advance the cause of American workers in a number of roles and venues, including as President of Working Washington and the Fair Work Center, member of the Aspen Institute’s Future of Work Initiative National Advisory Council, and participant in the Harvard Law School “Clean Slate” project on the future of U.S. labor law. He will also continue to serve as chairman of the SEIU 775 Secure Retirement Trust, and chairman of technology startup Carina (which provides job-matching services for home care aides). Forthcoming efforts yet to be announced include additional university-sponsored projects and a new collaboration with Seattle entrepreneur Nick Hanauer on rebuilding the American middle class.

Harders has been a leader and strategic innovator with the Union for more than 14 years, beginning with her career as an organizer and serving the last seven years as vice president. Harders led the field campaign for Proposition 1 in SeaTac, the successful campaign that helped spark the national Fight for $15 movement. She chaired the Union’s Vision 2022 Committee, which revamped the organization’s mission, vision and goals, and ensured that 775 is always ready to fight for and defend caregivers and low-wage workers – a vital need in our current political environment. She currently chairs the Union’s Health Benefits Trust, which provides health insurance to 20,000 caregivers and is a trustee of the SEIU 775 Training Partnership – Washington’s second-largest educational institution by enrollment – and the SEIU 775 Secure Retirement Trust.

“Caregivers have accomplished so much since we began campaigning for the right to form a caregiver union 16 years ago. It has been an honor to work on their behalf,” said Rolf. “I wholeheartedly support Sterling as the new president of SEIU 775. Thanks to her leadership, thousands of members have joined our Union. With Sterling at the helm, I know the organization we built together will always innovate and fight for worker power.”

Caregivers have come a long way from making minimum wage, but they are nowhere near where they should be. Harders and her team will continue leading the Union on its fight for professional training, affordable healthcare, secure retirement, a living wage, better funding, better staffing, and a better quality of life for those they care for.

“Without David and thousands of passionate caregivers, SEIU 775 wouldn’t be standing here stronger than ever,” said Harders. “David believes in making big, audacious goals. Time and time again, he’s proven that we can meet them. His fire is in the DNA of 775. No one at 775 is satisfied with the status quo, and together we will continue to fight for what caregivers and working people deserve.”

“Throughout his career, David has worked to improve the lives of caregivers, working people, people of color, underpaid people and families,” said Mary Kay Henry, SEIU International President. “Sterling has been deeply involved in the same fight, which will ensure a smooth transition. Together, David and Sterling paved the way for cities, counties and states around the country to raise the minimum wage. When the Fight for $15 and a Union was gaining momentum, they helped lead the campaign at SeaTac that won $15 for the first time.”

“I’ve had the opportunity to work closely with David and Sterling for years and I have no doubts that SEIU 775 will continue to fight for the justice of all working people, regardless of race, gender, origin, or religion,” said Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, WA-07. “Sterling knows the power and balance of politics and will use that to help guide caregivers for the next three years and hopefully many more.”

In accordance with SEIU 775’s Constitution and Bylaws, the leadership transition will happen on October 1, 2018.

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SEIU 775 represents more than 45,000 long-term care workers providing quality in-home care, nursing home care and adult day health services in Washington State and Montana.

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Caregiver Contract with the State of Washington

Together We Rise! (1)

Thanks to all your efforts, IP caregivers in Washington have a tentative agreement on our 2019-2021 contract with the State of Washington! (Ballots are coming out soon.) Even after we approve a contract, it’s not a done deal: Next spring, we’ll need everyone’s help to make sure the Legislature approves funding.

We did it!

Significant raises for all home care workers. A top wage of over $20 an hour. Increased retirement. Continued affordable healthcare.

These are some of the things we won in our next contract – thanks to the work we all did together: All our calls. All our emails. All of us who got in front of a phone camera to make a video to tell the governor how hard we work and how much we need pay raises and good health and retirement benefits.

Every single thing we did made a difference.

We raised our voices together again until we were too loud to be ignored — and now we’ve won a contract we can be proud of!

Here’s what’s in the tentative agreement:

  • Raises for all caregivers every six months
  • Wage increases of at least 8% for all IP caregivers over the two years of the contract
  • By June 2021, IPs’ minimum hourly wages will be $16.72, and the top hourly wage will be $19.07.
  • The most experienced caregivers with certification and advanced training will make more than $20 an hour!
  • Full funding to cover healthcare inflation and protect our healthcare, and money to continue and expand programs like “Caregiver Kicks” to keep caregivers healthy and safe on the job!
  • Full funding to continue Carina as it expands statewide!
  • Full funding for training, including more money for advanced training!
  • A big increase for our retirement!

This contract covers Individual Providers, but it’s also going to change the lives of Agency Providers, who bargain their contracts based on the improvements that IP caregivers make.

Soon, Individual Providers will get ballots in the mail to vote on ratifying this contract. We unanimously recommend voting YES!

Then, this winter and spring, we’re going to need all hands on deck again to make sure the Washington Legislature approves the funding for the contract.

For now, though, take a minute to pat yourselves and each other on the back for all our hard work in helping make these contract negotiations a big success.

Thank you so much for everything you did to make this happen. Caregivers were counting on you – and, just like always, you came through.

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Open Enrollment: Family Plans for Dental, Life, Vision, and Accident/Critical Illness Insurance

OE-Extention-775-pageNow through September 24, members can enroll in four new family benefits plans provided by MetLife, including:

Open Enrollment
deadline EXTENDED to
September 24, 2018

To enroll, visit our Open Enrollment website

Username: Your Member ID
(Ex: 123456789)

Password: Your Member ID backward (Ex: 987654321)
*If your Member ID is the same forward and backward, please add an “M” before the number
(Ex: M8765445678)

Deadline to enroll:
11:59 p.m. Monday, September 24

Go to our online Open Enrollment website to enroll, today!

To log in, use your Member ID as your username. Your password is your Member ID number backward. If you don’t know your Member ID, call our Member Resource Center at 1-866-371-3200.

To be eligible for these insurance programs, you must be a member in good standing.

Read our Open Enrollment Facts for more information.


Family Dental Insurance

Dentistry is not expensive, neglect is

Dental insurance can help you maximize your oral health while minimizing out-of-pocket costs for routine dental checkups, expensive procedures and most everything in between.

These Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) plans available for you and any dependents you wish to cover, offer members flexibility to visit any licensed dentist so you’re sure to find a provider who’s conveniently located and meets all your needs. Some highlights of this coverage include:

  • Large network of dentists, and the freedom to visit any dentist in or out-of-network.
  • Additional savings when you visit a participating dentist. Participating dentists have agreed to accept negotiated fees for covered services, which are typically 30 – 45% less than the average fees charged by dentists in the same community.
  • No paperwork in or out-of-network, if your dentist submits your claims for you.
  • Service where and when you want it on our secure member website.
  • Preventive care, such as cleanings, are typically 100% covered when using an in-network provider.

Supplemental Life Insurance

Financial Security for Your Loved Ones

A death in the family is not only emotionally devastating, it can also take a tremendous toll on the future financial security of a family. Suddenly, without the deceased’s income, paying the mortgage or providing for a child’s future may become much more difficult.

Those who buy life insurance do so to help ensure their loved ones are taken care of financially.

In the event of your passing or the passing of a covered dependent, life insurance provides money directly to the individuals you select, your beneficiaries, who can use the money as they see fit, including:

  • Replacing lost income
  • Covering basic living expenses
  • Paying household debts, estate taxes, and funeral expenses
  • Funding a child’s future
  • Supplementing retirement savings

If you purchase supplemental life insurance for yourself, you can also purchase coverage on your spouse, civil union partner or domestic partner, and eligible children.

This is separate from the Union-paid life insurance, which is provided through Membership Plus.

Family Vision Insurance

Look Toward the Future With Better Vision

Help protect the eyesight and health of every member of your family, with lower out-of-pocket expenses for you.

  • Save on a wide range of services that are standard benefits under this plan, including routine eye exams, glasses, contact fittings, and lenses. Plus, additional savings on non-prescription sunglasses and laser vision correction.
  • Convenience of visiting any licensed eye care professional. Or choose from the thousands of participating ophthalmologists, optometrists, and opticians working out of private practices or top retail chains, such as Costco® Optical, Pearle Vision, America’s Best, Cohen’s, VisionWorks, and more.
  • Lower out-of-pocket costs when you visit a participating vision care provider.

Family Accident/Critical Illness Insurance

Protect Your Family and Put Cash In Your Pocket

Accidents and Critical illnesses can happen when you least expect them – and they can be costly. Even quality medical plans can leave you with extra expenses to pay. Costs like plan deductibles, copays for doctor visits and extra costs for out-of-network care can add up fast. Having the financial support you may need when the time comes means less worry for you and your family.

While most medical plans provide coverage for hospital and medical expenses, they don’t typically cover costs like daily living expenses, childcare, or copays. The Benefits Enhancer Bundle can help close the gap.

The insurance program pays you a lump sum of money to use at your discretion should you or your dependent have a serious accident or face dealing with a critical illness such as:

  • Injuries: fractures, dislocations, concussions, lacerations, eye injuries, torn knee cartilage, ruptured discs, and second and third-degree burns.
  • Medical services and treatments: ambulance, emergency care, therapy services, medical testing (including x-rays, MRIs, CT scans), medical appliances, and certain types of surgeries.
  • Hospitalization: hospital admission, confinement, and inpatient rehab after an accident.
  • Critical Illnesses: several types of cancer, heart attack and stroke.

Open Enrollment Facts

  • Your online benefits enrollment is from Saturday, July 21 to 11:59 p.m. Monday, September 24, 2018.
  • Plans are effective starting September 1, 2018 if you enroll by August 24. Plans are effective starting October 1, 2018 if you enroll between August 25 and September 24.
  • This is the one time of year to make changes to your benefits without a qualifying event.
  • We understand the importance of helping you find the right plan to fit your needs and your budget, that’s why we are providing you with an online source to find everything you need in one place.
  • Take this opportunity to review and/or update Beneficiary information.
  • You must take action and elect or decline in this year’s benefits offerings.
  • You will need the names, birthdates, and Social Security numbers of all eligible dependents you wish to enroll.
  • You will need to be a member in good standing. If you are not already a member, complete your Union membership form (it may take up to a week to process your membership form).
  • Access tools to receive online education and guidance every step of the way that help you compare and buy coverage that is right for you.

Open Enrollment is a part of Membership Plus, which helps make your paychecks go further on things you’d be spending money on anyways and little extras just for you. View the Membership Plus website for a complete list of your benefits and discounts.

These insurance programs are separate from SEIU 775 Benefits Group’s healthcare insurances, which held their open enrollment July 1-20.

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2018 Legislative Session Wrap-Up

This legislative session is over and it was generally a great success! That’s because of all the hard work caregivers across the state did to make the world better for home care workers, our clients and our families. When we fight together anything is possible.

Read a quick recap of the 2018 legislative session below:

Our Long-Term Care Priorities

Consumer Directed Employer Legislation (SB 6199)

On March 27, Gov. Jay Inslee signed SB 6199, the Consumer Directed Employer Legislation, into law. This was DSHS requested legislation that impacts the way the state manages IPs. Case managers and advocates for seniors and people with disabilities supported the legislation because it allows case managers to get back to doing what they are trained, qualified and paid to do — serving vulnerable clients — instead of troubleshooting fixes for payroll and overtime.

Our executive board voted to support it because the legislation will: streamline and simplify employment and payroll processes for IPs, allow consumers — our clients — to remain in control, ensure IP wages and benefits are protected, provide opportunities for full-time employment, continue career pathways, put IPs in control of their future, and value home care aides.

Next Steps: DSHS will begin a competitive bidding process to identify who the Consumer Directed Employer will be. The State’s decision will include a robust stakeholder-involvement process including Parent Providers, IPs, and advocates for people with disabilities, including self-advocates. It will take over a year to get up-and-running so we will continue to bargain our contract as usual with the State this summer.

Visit our SB 6199 webpage for more information.

Long-Term Care Trust Act (HB 2533 / SB 6238)
SEIU 775 and Washingtonians for a Responsible Future moved the policy of a state-paid long-term care benefit from an ambitious idea to bona-fide legislation! Although the bill was not passed into law this year, we’ve built a lot of support and momentum for next year. The Long-Term Care Trust Act would provide long-term care insurance for people employed in Washington when they need it. There were multiple hearings, lots of press, bi-partisan support, and a commitment from stakeholders and legislators to aggressively try to pass it fully next year. The bill even achieved two budget provisos in support of the legislation — a rare feat for a supplemental budget like this. These two provisos will be used to fully flush out the policy so it is 100 percent ready to pass next session.

Learn more about the bill from Washingtonians for a Responsible Future. You can also read a story from The New York Times about the Long-Term Care Trust Act (subscription required).

Guardianship System Reform (SB 6479)
This year, we began the discussion in Olympia on guardianship reform. When we took an initial look at the guardianship appointment process, it became apparent that the entire system needed to be improved. SEIU 775 has now built and is leading a coalition of consumer groups and regulators who appreciate our leadership and are excited for change. Although the final legislative budget did not include the proviso that would have created a workgroup and a recommendation, the Union and the bill’s main supporter, Christine Kilduff (LD 28), have already come up with an alternative plan and we will move forward with a stakeholder-approved solution for next year.

Let us know if you have a story about how guardianship has affected you and we’ll contact you!

 

Other Important Issues That Passed

  • Increasing the personal needs allowance (HB 2651) – increases the personal needs allowance for individuals with disabilities in home care or institutional care
  • Breakfast After the Bell (1508) – allows students to eat breakfast in the classroom to ensure all students can get a nutritious snack at the beginning of their day
  • Prohibiting housing discrimination based on source of income (HB 2578) – makes it illegal for landlords to deny housing to a tenant based on their source of income, including Social Security, veterans benefits and housing vouchers
  • De-Escalate Washington (I-940) On March 8, the State Legislature passed Initiative 940 into law! Led by De-Escalate Washington and supported by SEIU 775, I-940 focuses on law enforcement training and community safety, and House Bill 3003 strengthens and clarifies some of the language in the initiative. We heard compelling testimony from parent providers and advocates at our convention last year about how people with disabilities – as well as people of color – are disproportionately impacted by police shootings. They made the case that better training and de-escalation tactics can save lives and improve the relationship between police and the communities they serve.
  • Several bills to make it easier for people to register and vote, including moving the registration deadline to Election Day (SB 6021), automatically registering people when dealing with the Department of Licensing or the Health Exchange (HB 2595), and allowing 16- and 17-year-olds to pre-register to vote (HB 1513). The legislature also adopted the Washington Voting Rights Act (SB 6002) to correct long-standing inequities in voting practices.
  • Increased protections against workplace harassment and assault, including making it mandatory to protect employees’ rights to file a complaint for sexual harassment or sexual assault in an employee’s contract (SB 6313), encouraging the disclosure of sexual harassment and sexual assault in the workplace (SB 5996), developing policies to create workplaces that are safe from sexual harassment (SB 6471), and protecting victims of sexual assault and domestic violence from employment discrimination (HB 2661).
  • Net Neutrality (HB 2282) – Washington became the first state to pass a law protecting “net neutrality,” preventing internet service providers from slowing down or blocking online content
  • Student Loan Bill of Rights (SB 6029) – creates a student loan advocate for Washington borrowers and provides students with basic guarantees
  • Washington Dream Act 2.0 (HB 1488) – protects undocumented students from losing financial aid eligibility if DACA is eliminated
  • Ban on conversion therapy for LGBTQ youths (SB 5722) – bans abusive conversion therapy and makes it so therapists, psychiatrists, or other healthcare providers could lose their licenses if they try to influence a minor’s sexuality or gender identity

Together we’ve fought hard for these bills, bringing topics to light that impact the ways Washingtonians live. These are huge wins for caregivers, our clients, families and the community in general. Together as a Union, we’re a strong and loud voice that is heard by our legislators.

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