WNS: In-Home Caregivers “Drive for Dignity,” Higher Pay

(06/10/14) SEATTLE – Three days and three destinations across the state – that’s the plan for a bus tour leaving Seattle on Tuesday. A group of in-home caregivers is onboard, with the message that if they can eventually earn a $15-an-hour minimum wage in Seattle, others around the state should be able to do the same.

Members of SEIU Healthcare 775 Northwest work with people who need daily assistance to remain in their homes, from chores and personal care to medication management. SEIU 775 spokesman Jackson Holtz says it’s a demanding job and higher wages would attract and retain workers at a time when the need for in-home care is growing.

“Right now, one in three caregivers in the state of Washington lives in poverty,” explains Holtz. “That means that they rely on public assistance – on food stamps and on other public services. We’re saying that’s just not right, and that they deserve the dignity of a $15 wage.”

Holtz says the home-care workers get professional training through the union and background checks, and have a wage scale that now starts around $10 an hour. This week’s “Drive for Dignity” tour is making stops in Everett, the Tri-Cities and Spokane.

One caregiver on the bus is Anna Rudova of Edmonds, who is originally from Russia. She says she earns almost $14 an hour, but only after 14 years on the job. She’s concerned that a new generation of workers won’t want to be caregivers, or won’t stick with it, because of the low pay. Rudova says it’s hard for caregivers to take time off for any reason – but she thinks the bus tour is an exception.

“Caregivers can try to find people who will take care of their client and take part in this tour – because this is very important for everybody,” says Rudova. “It will give us a new chance to live better.”

Rudova is also part of the bargaining team negotiating with the State of Washington for the caregivers’ next contract for Medicaid patients. She says keeping people at home when they are older or have disabilities costs the state only one-third of what it would take to keep them in nursing homes or other facilities, underscoring the need for an adequate in-home care workforce.


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“Drive for Dignity: $15 for caregivers” statewide bus tour

 Caregivers: “We deserve dignity and $15”
“Drive for Dignity: $15 for caregivers” statewide bus tour
sparks awareness of age wave, job growth

SEATTLE (June 10, 2014) – A week after the Seattle City Council passed a historically high $15 minimum wage, home care aides and nursing home workers are touring the state to ask state lawmakers for a pathway to a $15 wage.

“If Seattle can do it, Washington can pass a $15 wage for caregivers. We take care of the state’s most vulnerable people and we still live in poverty,” said Anna Rudova, a caregiver from Edmonds and a member of SEIU 775, the caregivers’ union. “Each day I do hard work to help my client live at home with dignity. But until I get paid $15, I won’t feel like I have dignity as a caregiver.”

Home care aides are among the fastest growing professions in the United State. Yet most Washington caregivers earn a $10.50 starting wage. The low wage results in about a third of the state’s 40,000 caregivers living in poverty, according to state statistics.

Although some caregivers in Seattle can expect a $15 wage in seven years – as mandated under the city’s new law – most caregivers in Washington must rely on a state contract to raise wages.

Independent providers of home care, workers who are paid through the Medicaid system, make up the majority of the state’s long-term care workforce. They collectively bargain with the state every two years. The most recent contract, signed by Gov. Inslee in 2013, starts at $10.50. Union members and state labor negotiators began last month to negotiate a new contract.

“We must prepare now for the coming age wave,” Rudova said. “Only when we all start at $15 will we be able to attract enough workers to care for the growing number of seniors.”

One in five Washington residents will be 65 or older by 2030, according to demographic trends. And about 70 percent of people over 65 will require long-term care at some point, studies show.

Home and community-based long-term care costs the state about one-third of institutional care, making investments in home care aides both a way to provide more compassionate care for seniors and people with disabilities and save the state money.

Higher minimum wages also helps fuel local economies. When workers get paid more, they buy more from small businesses, economists say.

The three-day bus tour is scheduled to start in Seattle on Tuesday, June 10, before making stops in Everett and Tri-Cities, and ending in Spokane. About 60 low-wage workers are making the 400-mile trek.

Each stop is featuring a rally and demonstrations of the hard work caregivers perform each day for their clients.

SEIU 775 represents 43,000 long-term care workers in Washington and Montana.



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David Rolf statement on Forward Seattle

David Rolf, SEIU 775 President and co-chair of the Income Inequality Advisory Committee (IIAC), today issued the following statement:

“Despite widespread agreement among the Seattle business and labor community not to pursue competing ballot initiatives and overwhelming public support for the ordinance just passed by the City Council and signed by the Mayor, a fringe group of right-wing ideologues in the business community today showed that they will stop at nothing to prevent workers from earning a living wage. This is selfish, short-sighted, and stupid. Those of us on the IIAC who worked tirelessly for months to produce a plan that works for labor and business are deeply disappointed to see others pursuing plans that would weaken the gains for our community. We certainly don’t expect them to succeed.

“We call on Forward Seattle to release a list of the businesses who support their initiative.  That way Seattle consumers will know which establishments not to patronize.” – David Rolf


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Seattle leads nation with plan to raise minimum wage to $15

Labor and business reach landmark agreement to improve workers’ lives and fuel economy

SEATTLE (May 1, 2014) — David Rolf, president of SEIU Healthcare 775NW and vice president of SEIU, today issued the following statement in response to Seattle Mayor Ed Murray’s plan to raise the minimum wage in Seattle to $15:

“Raising Seattle’s minimum wage to $15 reaches far beyond the 100,000 workers who will benefit within the city limits. Today, Seattle workers send a clarion call to all working people in America. Workers can achieve a share of the American Dream when we act courageously, spur unrest and then unite in action to elect leaders like Mayor Ed Murray. As co-chair of the Income Inequality Advisory Committee, I want to thank Mayor Murray for his leadership, and recognize Howard Wright, my co-chair, and all the committee members including my brothers and sisters from the labor movement and the business community. I now urge the City Council to act swiftly. The agreement, born from the actions of brave fast-food workers, will pump nearly $500 million into Washington’s economy, proving that a higher minimum wage fuels business and job growth. Today, this victory is for Seattle. Tomorrow, as thousands of low-wage workers mobilize, we will stand down extremists who want to split apart our communities; we will demonstrate to doubters that middle-out economics benefits all; and we will rekindle the American pledge to leave a brighter future for the next generation.”

Read The American Prospect article on Seattle’s new minimum wage proposal:
“Seattle’s $15 Minimum Wage Agreement: Collective Bargaining Reborn?”

Read The Seattle Times piece on the minimum wage movement in Seattle:
“Unions are back with city by city wage campaign”


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SEIU Healthcare NW Training Partnership recognized by White House

The SEIU Healthcare NW Training Partnership, the largest home care worker training provider in the country, was recognized by the White House on Wednesday, April 16 for the expansion of its unique apprenticeship program. The program, which is designed to meet the career pathway needs of Washington state’s 43,000 Home Care Aides, works to fill the workforce need in home care, the fastest growing occupation in the country.

As part of an initiative by the White House to invest in job training to help workers get trained with high-demand skills, the President and Vice President highlighted five business, union and nonprofit groups for their work to expand apprenticeships. They also announced the availability of $100 million in funds to reward partnerships that help more workers participate in apprenticeships.

The Training Partnership’s first in the nation Registered Apprenticeship program for Home Care Aides was lauded for its commitment to train 3,000 apprentices a year in five years from the current level of 300 a year. In addition, the Training Partnership will leverage learning technologies to scale training programs to reach 10 times more workers over five years. The Training Partnership, which is a nonprofit school created and sponsored by a labor-management partnership, will work with the State of Washington, SEIU, home care providers, healthcare systems, healthcare purchasers and payors and other stakeholders to achieve these goals.

Training Partnership Executive Director, Charissa Raynor, says investing in apprenticeships is a smart choice. “Registered Apprenticeship is a proven model for developing high demand skills and advancing worker earning potential. Expansion in the home care workforce opens the door to Registered Apprenticeship in new industries, like healthcare,” she says. “Apprenticeship will target the expanding role of home care workers to add value to the healthcare system by improving health and healthcare cost outcomes. We’ll do this by training and technologizing home care workers to reduce avoidable and expensive emergency room, hospitalization, and nursing home use.”

Over the next few months, the Aspen Institute, with support from the Ford Foundation and SkillUp Washington, will conduct a study of the Training Partnership’s innovative approaches to better understand the impact of the organization’s training on the state’s home care workforce and home care consumers.

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Thousands of Home Care Workers Eagerly Await Back Pay/Celebrate Modest Gains

SEATTLE – It will likely take another several weeks to get their first check, but tens of thousands of home care workers are eagerly awaiting their share of $57 million in back pay owed to them by the state. SEIU 775 executive board member T.J. Janssen is one of the 22,000 home care workers due back pay because of a State Supreme Court Ruling earlier this month. The court found the Department of Social and Health Services improperly cut the pay of workers who were living with the clients they care for.

“There’s a lot of caregivers that had to leave a job,” he explains. “It’s only fair that they get paid to do that, because that job they were working before was paying their bills.”

The 5-to-4 decision found the state violated its good faith duty in dealing with the terms of its contract with providers. The department did catch one break in the ruling, which threw out interest on the back pay. The average worker is expected to get about $3,500.

Looking ahead to the next legislative session, Janssen points out lawmakers are starting to understand that home care workers provide services that save the state money in the long run. He hopes they remember that at budget time.

“Start restoring the hours,” he says. “We don’t expect them to restore all of them at one time – at least I don’t – but to get caregivers out of poverty, because all of the cuts during the recession has put a lot of caregivers in poverty.”

As for the 2014 session that ended last month, Janssen says his union stood with brother and sister nursing home workers in winning a major funding victory. “Twenty million dollars in new funding for nursing homes,” he says. “Nine million of it is earmarked especially for improving wages, benefits and staffing for nursing homes.”

Janssen says home care workers will also be safer on the job thanks to a measure passed this session that provides workers with safety gloves. Prior to the legislation about 75 percent of home care workers had to pay for their own gloves, which he says many workers did without, because they could not afford them. – See more at:


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SEIU Healthcare 775NW on U.S. Senator John Walsh Appointment

Helena, Mont. – David Rolf, President of SEIU Healthcare 775NW, issued the following statement on U.S. Senator John Walsh’s appointment:

“Congratulations to Montana’s newest United States Senator, John Walsh. John is a champion of home care workers. He believes in the value of the hard work our members do in Montana and we’re so pleased that he’ll be a voice for working people in the United States Senate.”


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Home-Care Workers Rally to Restore Hours, Raise Wages

(WASHINGTON NEWS SERVICE) OLYMPIA, Wash. – People with disabilities and their caregivers rallied in Olympia on Wednesday, Feb. 5, looking for assurances from lawmakers that their hours of service will be restored.

Professional and family caregivers who are paid by the state say they have slid backward on the income ladder in the past six years by almost 20 percent, between wage freezes and reduced hours.

Pam Hansen, Bellingham, was one of about 50 caregivers and clients who gathered at the State Capitol. She has a 25-year-old son with developmental disabilities who requires full-time supervision. Hansen said she now is paid to provide his care for 62 hours a month, down from 70.

“You know, I’m doing the best that I can with what skills that I have, and I think that I’m doing a good job,” Hansen said. “But sometimes, it would help if I had a few more extra hours that I could do what I need to do sometimes for myself.”

Home-based caregivers point out that they’re saving the state millions of dollars a year by keeping people out institutions, which are more expensive.

However, many of them make poverty-level wages. One piece of legislation they back, HB 2310, asks the state to cover the cost of protective gloves for all home-care workers, for health and safety reasons.

The rally was a joint effort of the caregivers’ union, SEIU Healthcare 775 Northwest, and the ARC, which advocates for people with disabilities. Both groups aimed to let lawmakers know how their budget cuts have affected many of the people least likely to afford them. Hansen said this is not her first time talking with legislators, and she feels they’re getting the message.

“I’ve been up here in Olympia probably four or five times in the last six or seven years,” she said. “Yeah, I think they really have [heard us], especially the governor. So, I’m just really hoping that we can get the word out.”

Speakers at the rally said there are tax loopholes to be closed that could allow the state to funnel more money into restoring hours of service for older Washingtonians and those with disabilities.

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Voters statewide support $12/hour minimum wage and paid sick and safe leave, poll shows

OLYMPIA – Nearly two out of three Washington voters support raising the state’s minimum wage to $12/hour and almost three quarters say they back requiring employers to offer paid sick and safe leave, according to recent polling data.

Both of these worker-supportive bills are before lawmakers here in Olympia. Rep. Jessyn Farrell (D-Seattle) introduced HB 2672 which would raise the state’s minimum wage to $12/hour by 2017. The minimum wage bill is scheduled to be heard at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday before the House Labor Committee. The Paid Sick and Safe leave bill, HB 1313, introduced by Rep. Laurie  Jinkins (D-Tacoma), passed out of the House by 52-45 vote last week.

“The strong support for a higher minimum wage reflects a growing concern that big corporations are taking too much from the 99 percent and are not giving back,” said Adam Glickman, secretary-treasurer, SEIU Healthcare 775NW. “Through a higher minimum wage and paid sick and safe leave, we can end cycles of poverty for working Washingtonians.”

Voters agree that paying workers more will boost local economies, the research showed. More than 64 percent of those polled said that a middle-out economy will help revitalize local communities that have suffered during the economic recession. Support crossed party lines. Self-identified Republicans (43-percent) like the idea of a $12/hour state-wide minimum wage, as do voters in swing Legislative districts. Two-thirds of voters in the 17th District favor the concept, and 65 percent in the 30th say they would support a higher state minimum wage.

Over three quarters of voters indicated they support for paid sick and safe leave, the research showed. Opposition to the requirement for employers was very weak. Under one-in-five voters would not support a statewide paid sick leave measure.

The statewide research was paid for by SEIU Healthcare 775NW, UCFW Local 21 and other labor organizations and was conducted by Patinkin Research Strategies.


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Nursing Home workers united for a fair contract!

SUNNYSIDE, Wash. – Nov. 13 – Dozens of nursing home workers picketed November 13 outside a Sunnyside nursing home calling for respect for workers so they may provide the best care for residents.

Nursing home workers in the region have been battling nursing home operators for months. Workers in Union Gap went days without pay; they filed successful lawsuits for unpaid vacation time; and now workers are bargaining with the current owners, Prestige Healthcare LLC, for workplace respect and dignity.

“We are working at nearly poverty wages to care for the most vulnerable seniors and people with disabilities,” said Celia “Sally” Salinas, of Sunnyside. She’s a Prestige Care & Rehabilitation Sunnyside worker and a member of SEIU Healthcare 775NW. “It’s time for Prestige to show workers dignity and respect; what everyone would expect for the care of these residents and the people who provide the care.”

Workers have been in negotiations with Prestige Care Inc., which owns and operates more than a dozen nursing homes in Washington.

Many of these same Tri-Cities and Yakima workers lost wages and healthcare at the same time Prestige took responsibility for these facilities late last year from Eagle Healthcare. Union members in February filed suit against Eagle Healthcare and former owner Jeff Marshall seeking unpaid vacation time and damages. On Friday, a King County court ordered both defendants to pay workers back wages and vacation time, plus interest and attorneys fees.

The Federal government also agreed to hear a series of legal charges made by union caregivers against Prestige. The National Labor Relations Board will be holding a hearing on the charges scheduled for Dec. 17 in Richland.

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