SEIU Healthcare 775 has adopted the bold goal of lifting all caregivers out of poverty.
What does “out of poverty” mean?
- A living wage. A living wage would be approximately $17.50/hour, which combined with sufficient hours would enable most caregivers to support themselves and their families.
- Full-time work. Hours cuts have decimated take home income for caregivers and impacted the quality of care for clients. All workers should be able to get full-time hours if they want them, and clients should get the hours of care they need to ensure quality care.
- Affordable quality healthcare. All long-term care workers need access to affordable healthcare for themselves and their families. This needs to include coverage for part-time workers, and enable workers who work multiple part-time jobs to qualify for affordable coverage
- Retirement security. Work done as a long-term care worker should contribute towards workers being able to retire around age 65 and not live in poverty. This means we need a retirement system or benefit that works both for “lifetime” caregivers and for workers who work only a small portion of their working life as home care worker.
- Career paths to higher wage jobs. Direct care jobs in long-term care need to pay a living wage AND we need career paths for caregivers into higher-skill and higher-wage careers in health care or social services. Workers who demonstrate basic competence as a home care workers should have access to and support to to take advanced training classes and pursue pathways to higher-skill, higher-wage jobs
2013: A big step toward lifting caregivers out of poverty
By winning funding for the IP contract and parity we took a big step towards lifting caregivers out of poverty in 2013. About 25 percent of home care workers will earn nearly $15/hour by July 2014. The contract raises wages to at least $11/hour by July 2014 and creates a pathway to $15/hour for experienced caregivers with advanced training.
Our contact leads the nation in creating a wage scale that helps to stabilize our workforce, creates a career ladder and helps improve the overall quality of services by rewarding experience and advanced training.
In 2013, we also had several other victories that advance our goal of lifting caregivers out of poverty, including:
- Passing Medicaid expansion in Washington State. On top of the thousands of caregivers who now have health insurance coverage through our health benefits trust, the Affordable Care Act will increase access to health care for thousands more low-wage caregivers.
- Winning initial retirement contributions in our agency home care contracts. While these contributions are small and only take effect at the end of the contract cycle, they lay the groundwork for winning a retirement contribution in the next IP contract.
- The Training Partnership graduated the first class of apprentices and the first class to gain a Medical Assistant certificate – our first career pathway to higher-pay jobs. We also won ongoing – though very modest – funding for advanced training.
- We won significant improvements to the Exception to Rules (ETR) process for appealing for more hours, which we expect will help thousands of clients gain back tens of thousands of hours over the next year.
- We increased the amount of paid time off to one hour off for every 35 hours worked (up from one hour off for every 40 hours worked).
2014: Taking additional steps out of poverty
We have set the following goals as the next steps towards lifting caregivers out of poverty:
- Bargain a new IP contract with an increase starting wages for home care workers to at least $13/hour by July 2016.
- Win back a significant portion of the hours that have been cut since 2009; our goal is to win back $10-20M, though the supplemental budget, which would represent a 20-40 percent restoration.
- Improve the home care registry.
- Help clients and their providers win back additional hours through the ETR process.
- If we fail to win a significant buy-back of hours through the Legislature, we will explore putting the issue to a vote through a ballot measure.
A history of winning for long-term caregivers
In our first decade:
- 2001: We win the right to form a union; Initiative 775 is passed by 63 percent of voters.
- 2002: More than 26,000 home care workers overwhelmingly vote to form a union; it is Washington’s largest union election.
- 2003-2007: We win wage increases totaling more than 40 percent, plus health insurance, workers’ compensation, paid vacation and reimbursement for using our personal vehicle for transporting our clients.
- 2006: We win wage parity for agency home care workers and more than $20 million to improve nursing home wages.
- 2009-2011: We passed two initiatives guaranteeing professional training for home care workers.
- We’ve become a powerful legislative advocate for long-term caregivers; the Seattle Times compared us with Boeing and Microsoft, saying “(SEIU 775) has emerged as one of Olympia’s most powerful players.” This advocacy continues—in 2013, more than 5,000 members lobbied their legislators through office visits, phone calls and/or emails and letters.
- After four years of fighting cuts during the Great Recession, we win a new contract guaranteeing raises in 2013 and 2014, and a top step of nearly $15 per hour.