A note from SEIU 775 President Sterling Harders

SEIU 775 Members and Caregivers,
In our January newsletter, we talked about the huge challenges in the upcoming Washington and Montana legislative sessions. Despite caregivers still being on the frontlines of the pandemic, we faced uphill battles around funding our contracts, extending hazard pay, and doing right by nursing home staff and residents. But we were ready to stand up together and fight for what we knew was right.
And so, we did what we do best. We worked together, fought together, used our collective power, and we won. We won for caregivers. We won for our clients. We won for our communities. We won for each other.
There will be no cuts to long-term care, our caregiver contract is funded with agency parity, and we took a step toward making sure Washington’s wealthiest pay their fair share. We funded affordable housing and renter protections. We increased nursing home funding and eliminated the shared benefits rule. We increased funding for immigrant relief and ended private prisons in Washington. We are holding the police accountable, and we fought back against right to work laws in Montana. We fought for what we believe. We accomplished a lot, and there is more to do.
We’re 775, and together, we’re unstoppable.
Sterling Harders
SEIU 775 President

Our new IP contract with agency parity is fully funded

“We, the caregivers, are the Union, and when we speak now, we are heard.”

– Dora Poqui, IP, Port Orchard, WA

“I’ve been a caregiver for 15 years and when I started, it was $9 an hour with no benefits. I was a single mom and working two or three jobs just to survive. People took advantage and treated me like the housekeeper. It’s so different now with our Union contract. People treat me like the health care professional that I am. As caregivers, we have protections, and health insurance, training, and room for advancement.
Caregiving isn’t just a job for a lot of us because we’re committed to our clients, and they depend on us. We keep our clients safe and at home. We’re essential workers.
With our new Washington state caregiver contract, I’ve got something to look forward to – I know I have that pay raise coming, and I know our Union’s looking out for us. I have a sense of security knowing that we’re protected. I believe in what we have because I’ve seen how powerful we are when we unite. We, the caregivers, are the Union, and when we speak now, we are heard.”

Our 2021-2023 IP contract will:

  • Increase wages by 3% across the two years of the contract, keeping up with rising costs
  • Keep our healthcare premiums affordable
  • 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

Caregivers prioritized for COVID-19 vaccine

“It was great to know that I was going to be protected, and most importantly, protect my clients.”

– Lucia Apodaca, IP and AP, Yakima, WA

“I felt really fortunate and happy when I heard from the Union that we were in the first priority group for the vaccine. It was great to know that I was going to be protected, and most importantly, protect my clients. As caregivers, we expose ourselves to COVID at a higher rate because we need to go to the store, and the pharmacy to pick up prescriptions, and take folks to the doctor.
These are all places with more people, so we risk ourselves in order to care for our clients. I would have felt very unsafe and really frustrated if we had to wait for the vaccine.
When our clients are safe with us then we have job security; because if I am protected, then I can continue to provide care for my clients, who want me to care for them.”

Montana defeats Anti-Worker Bill

Historic defeat of “Right to Work” bill keeps Unions strong in Montana

“We are stronger when we fight together for what we need, and every day in Montana we’re fighting to keep our wages up and to bargain for more funding. So I was on pins and needles when the so called “Right to Work” bill made it farther than ever in our legislature this year. I recruited other SEIU 775 members to call in and together we flooded the switchboard, telling our representatives to vote no on this bad bill. Everyone understood that our wages would go down and we’d lose bargaining power if this bill wasn’t stopped. 

I was so relieved when the bill was defeated by a vote of 62 to 38. Having a strong Union means that my bills are being paid, because our wages are better. I am ready to fight again if this bill comes back next session.”

– Celeste Thompson, AP, Missoula, MT

Nursing home workers receive increased funding

“I know my Union has my back and together, we’re going to change things for the better.”

– Tim Price, CNA, Bellingham, WA

“My facility had to deal with short-staffing before the pandemic, and that problem only got worse once the crisis started. What short staffing can look like is a situation where you have one staff member for every 25 residents and that’s not fair for the worker or the resident. Winning more funding for nursing homes means that we can finally start solving these problems. With higher wages we can hire more good caregivers and retain great caregivers. That way we can take better care of our residents and each other. But this is still just a start. Nursing homes have been underfunded for too long and we have a lot of catching up to do. But I know my Union has my back and together we’re going to change things for the better.”

We won hazard pay and PPE

“We shouldn’t have to worry about being paid enough just to take care of our families.”

– Lauren Evans, IP, Vancouver, WA

“Last spring, there were no disinfectant wipes or gloves to be found anywhere. I was using my daughter’s sewing machine to handmake masks for us. It doesn’t make sense to be trained that you need supplies when you’re working and then not have those things provided.
Now, I just order them on the State’s website for caregivers and two days later I get a box full of everything I need – that was coming out of my own pocket before, and it was really making a dent in my wallet. It’s another way now that I can save money for my kids.
At one point, my doctor thought I had COVID and sent me to the emergency room. My first thought was ‘how am I going to take care of my children?’ This is a job that most people wouldn’t be willing to do and not everyone can do it, so we shouldn’t have to worry about being paid enough just to take care of our families. So, the hazard pay we’ve won has been one of the biggest blessings of this last year. It’s given me the opportunity to move out of my mom’s house and afford a two-bedroom for my family, and, for the first time in my life, I’ve been able to put aside money for emergencies.”

The Working Families Tax Credit (Recovery Rebate) is law!

Starting in 2023, this will provide a tax rebate of $300-$1,200 for more than 400,000 Washingtonians.

“It’s a little extra peace of mind that you’re going to be okay for this month.”

– Becky Fernandez, IP, Lacey, WA

“The Working Families Tax Credit is going to mean having a sense of security. That little extra is peace of mind that you’re going to be okay for this month. It’s being warm or being able to put gas in the car. It means you can get your medication and afford the co-pay. Maybe it means you don’t have to worry about rent this month, or maybe you can take that amount and give back to your own community and help your neighbor. This last year, a lot of people have been afraid. And when that happens, being able to help each other and depend on your community is so important. We’ve already gone through so much this year, so making sure you can still keep your health and wellbeing in order and have the dignity we all deserve – that’s important, too.”

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