SEATTLE (Sept. 5, 2014) – As hundreds of SEIU 775 caregivers gather for their annual convention here this weekend, the workers are celebrating a tentative agreement with the state that will raise the average wage for a home care worker to more than $14/hour.
The contract, reached Thursday with state labor officials, covers more than 33,000 individual providers of long-term supports and services to older adults and people with disabilities. This was the first time since 2004 that an agreement was reached at the bargaining table without going to binding arbitration.
“This contract represents a victory for the state’s most vulnerable people, the citizens we provide care for,” said Sylvia Liang, a SEIU 775 member, the union representing long-term care workers. “We’re pleased that the state recognizes the importance of providing quality long-term care and treating workers with dignity and respect.”
The contract still is subject to union ratification and funding must be approved by the Legislature. There is not an official cost yet, but union officials estimated it would cost less than $60 million in state funds annually – significantly less than the cost of the last arbitration award.
“The state this year recognized that caregivers should not be required to take a vow of poverty to do their jobs,” said Adam Glickman, SEIU 775 Secretary Treasurer. “Workers also recognize the state’s precarious fiscal situation, and while we had hoped to reach $15 for caregivers, we understand that workers now are on a pathway to reach that iconic goal.”
The contract also includes a modest initial defined-contribution retirement benefit and an increase in paid time off or PTO. Thousands of caregivers who work for agencies such as ResCare or Catholic Community Services also will benefit. The collective bargaining agreement leads to increased funding for private agencies to provide similar increases to their caregivers.
Still, the fight for caregivers is far from over. State mandated reductions in hours to vulnerable adults have made it difficult for many caregivers to pay the bills. While caregivers and the state’s most vulnerable populations continue to suffer, giant corporations enjoy massive tax breaks.
Hundreds of caregivers plan to rally Friday in downtown Seattle outside Microsoft’s corporate offices. Microsoft receives about $20 million in tax breaks, according to state records. Despite a pledge to create local jobs, instead Microsoft this year announced plans to slash more than 32,000 corporate and contract positions in Washington.
“It’s not right that caregivers are forced to live in poverty, while Microsoft gets away without having to pay their fair share,” Liang said.
Caregivers are calling on state lawmakers to close corporate tax loopholes and generate revenue for the state’s most vulnerable.
SEIU 775 represents 44,000 long-term care workers in Washington and Montana. Founded in 2002, SEIU 775 members fight to deliver quality care to vulnerable older adults and people with disabilities.