Caring for others runs in the Williams family. Danielle Williams, 52, and her daughter, Brittany, 35, have spent their entire adult lives caring for others: doing the unpaid labor of tending to family members and looking after elderly and disabled adults in their jobs as home care workers.
Their work days are largely similar. Both mother and daughter rise early and make a lengthy commute — up to one hour by car for Danielle and up to two hours by bus for Brittany. They make their clients’ meals. They shop for groceries and clothes, pick up medicine, run to the post office. They care for pets. They dress and undress, change diapers and give baths. They assist with medication. They dust, vacuum and do the laundry. They talk and listen to the stories of their clients’ lives, often for hours.
But the similarities end there. Brittany makes nearly $20 an hour, usually working five days a week. But without child care for her 8-year-old son during the pandemic, she’s been working no more than four. She has paid time off, medical and dental insurance, a retirement plan and many other benefits. Danielle works seven days a week making half Brittany’s wage. She has no benefits through her job, qualifies for Medicaid and is barely able to survive.
These differences come down to where Brittany and Danielle live. Brittany lives in Washington State and belongs to a union of long-term-care workers, S.E.I.U. Local 775, that has worked with the state for better pay and working conditions. Danielle lives in Arkansas, where she has none of that. Across the nation, this pattern repeats itself: Home care aides in states where the work force has unionized and won the right to collectively bargain with the state have living wages and benefits, while those in states without unions have lower wages and minimal benefits — if any at all.
In the midst of the pandemic, we told legislators, “You Clapped. Now Act!” And now, because of the thousands of actions taken by caregivers during a year when we were up against an incredible number of challenges, those legislators took action and chose to stand by caregivers.
Now that Washington state’s legislative session has ended, here’s everything we fought for – and won!
No cuts to long-term care
Last summer, the State proposed cuts of $1.1 billion in long-term care services for the elderly and people with disabilities. And we fought back because we knew that cuts to these critical Long-Term Services and Supports at any point in history is harmful – but during a pandemic, it would be tantamount to neglect. And our legislators heard us! The House and Senate budget have NO cuts to long-term care.
Funding for our new IP contract with agency parity
In the middle of a global pandemic and the COVID-induced economic downturn, together, we successfully bargained for our 2021-2023 IP contract with the State. Now that it has been fully funded, this contract will:
- Increase wages by 3% across the two years of the contract – keeping up with rising costs
- Keep our healthcare premiums affordable (but no expansion to dependent coverage)
- Continue supplying PPE at no cost to caregivers
- Protect us with strong HADit (Harassment Abuse & Discrimination) language
- Give credit for prior home care experience and include paid holidays (starting July 1, 2022)
Funding increases in nursing home funding for 2021-2023
We won over $70 million in increased funding for nursing homes that we can now bargain into meaningful victories. From increased wages to better benefits, we know that the nursing home system in Washington must invest in frontline workers to rebuild after years of underfunding. This year is a good step towards those investments but we have more work to do to ensure safe staffing and strong union jobs in nursing homes across Washington.
The Working Families Tax Credit is heading to the governor’s desk to be signed into law
Starting in 2023, this will provide a tax rebate of $300-$1200 for more than 400,000 low- and moderate-income Washington residents. In addition, the capital gains tax on extraordinary profits from the sale of stocks, bonds or luxury assets (like yachts) passed! Profits over $250,000 will be taxed 7 percent with exemptions for small businesses, retirement accounts, sale of a primary residence, and a few other items to ensure the wealthy pay their share in taxes.
Funding for affordable housing and renter protections
The legislature passed House Bill 1236 – preventing people from being evicted without the landlord having “just cause” to evict – as well as Senate Bill 5160: the right to legal counsel if facing eviction and mandatory eviction support to help prevent people from losing their homes. They also passed rental subsidies for people leaving nursing homes to be able to afford rent and enter back into their community.
We also won:
- Funding to eliminate the Shared Benefit Rule and increase hours for thousands of home care clients by the end of 2021
- New additional funding for the immigrant relief fund to support undocumented workers ineligible for federal and unemployment benefits
In a year when we couldn’t go to the Capitol or talk to our legislators in person, we still made sure they could hear us – whether it was sending emails, making calls, or joining a virtual Purple Presence. We’re stronger together, and sharing our stories is how we built support for our priorities.
Thank you for taking action!