Dora has been a caregiver for her father for the past 14 years, but she just became certified as an Individual Provider in October 2017 and joined our caregivers’ Union, SEIU 775.
In April 2018, she joined the latest Member-to-Member Specialist team to start calling other caregivers to explain what the union stands for and why it’s important for all of us to stick together. She’s excited about the chance to talk with other caregivers about these things, because many of them didn’t realize that they’re part of a strong community of 45,000 caregivers in Washington and Montana that work together to improve their lives.
Some who haven’t been caregivers for the whole 15 years that SEIU 775 has been around didn’t realize that IP caregivers’ pay used to be minimum wage, just over $7 an hour, with no wage scale, health insurance, no PTO, no L&I, and no retirement benefit. We’ve worked to improve our contract through the years and now IPs have all those benefits and starting wages of twice what we earned back then.
One of the things that’s been exciting about making these calls is being able to explain the Union to caregivers who don’t speak very much English. Dora is bilingual, so she’s able to talk to them in Spanish about the ways that our Union fights for our rights — and that the Union is our voice as caregivers.
Before she talked to them, some caregivers thought that the Union was some outside group trying to take money from them. Now, they understand that the Union is just the way that all of us come together as caregivers to work to benefit everyone. Caregivers decide what we’ll do as a Union.
“Who better to be the Union than caregivers?” Dora says. “It’s our voice.”
When caregivers hear that they are part of a powerful organization with so many opportunities for making change and helping people, they’re eager to learn even more.
Dora urges them to go to go to their area meetings where they can meet caregivers in their hometowns and find out what’s going on there. Working in homes can be isolating, so it’s good to meet other people who understand you and support you the way that only another caregiver can really do.
It’s a long commute from her home in Tacoma to the Union’s downtown Seattle office, and she’s fortunate that her husband can take care of her father while she’s at work, but Dora’s glad to have the opportunity to build a bridge to caregivers who might have missed out on participating in our Union without her.