Invisible No More

A history of fighting and winning

Since we founded our union, we made a lot of progress from 2002 until the economy crashed in 2008. Wages increased by 40% for home care workers, where starting wages are above $10/hour, with additional raises for experience. A majority of home care workers have affordable health, dental, and vision insurance and we’ve won paid time off, mileage reimbursement, and fully employer-paid workers compensation (L & I). Members who work in nursing homes saw improvement in their wages and staffing, too but still lack health care.

Our journey towards real living wages, good benefits, safe staffing and professional recognition has just begun. Our commitment to winning adequate hours, better staffing ratios and quality care for the people we serve as clients and residents is stronger than ever. Our eyes are on the prize of ending caregiver poverty, and securing stable funding to protect long-term care.

A Timeline of our Union’s History

2001 – Washington voters pass Initiative 775 with 63 percent voting for it. It gave home care workers the right to form a union.
2002 – 26,000 home care workers overwhelmingly vote to form a union in Washington’s largest union election.
2003 – First Individual Provider contract rejected by Washington Legislature, but we win a 75-cent/hour raise.
2004 – Washington legislators unanimously fund the first IP contract. In 3 years, IP wages rose $1.75/hour (from $7.18 to $8.93/hour). Big victories include health insurance and workers’ compensation.
2005 – We win paid vacation for IPs and add dental, vision, and pharmacy benefits for covered home care workers.
2006 – Three big wins: 1) Nursing Home workers win $20.2 million to improve wages, 2) Parity Law – the legislature must fund the same increases for union agency workers and IPs, and 3) Experience Counts – a raise for every 2,000 hours worked. All home care contracts now have a wage scale with step increases.
2007 – Third contract victory – starting wage of $10.03/hour, better health and vacation benefits, and mileage reimbursement. After a three year fight working in alliance with advocates, the discriminatory shared living rule is struck down. We are still awaiting settlement of the lawsuit to win back-pay.
2008 – In Montana, we win healthcare coverage. Washington voters pass I-1029 to improve home care worker training to better meet the needs of clients. The Legislature fails to fund home care contracts; progress on higher entry wage halts at $10.03/hour for Individual Providers.
2009 – SEIU Healthcare NW Training Partnership starts, but the legislature delays implementation of voter-approved training (I-1029). We beat most proposed cuts to long-term care, but suffered some cuts to hours.
2010 – The Training Partnership begins to develop caregiver-designed training classes. Faced with another big budget deficit, we saved Adult Day Health programs from closure, and fended off the most severe cuts to home care and nursing homes, although hours were again reduced for clients.
2011 – The Training Partnership starts to deliver a new redesigned “Basic” curriculum, but the legislature once again votes to delay I-1029. Home care hours are cut deeply, an average of 10%, and the Union and disability-rights advocates join in a lawsuit against DSHS, asserting that the cuts jeopardize the choice and independence of clients. For the third year in a row, home care worker starting wages are frozen, with no raise in sight. Caregivers respond by qualifying I-1163 for the ballot, and voters overwhelmingly approve the measure. Joining hands with the 99% of Americans who are experiencing a continued recession, SEIU launches a global effort to stand up for good jobs and fight for a fair economy.

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