Union Sisters, Brothers, Siblings,
Caregivers came together and raised our voices in a BIG way in Olympia this year. Because of the thousands of contacts between caregivers and legislators, we’ve won on many of our big priorities!
Last year, we kicked off our Time for $20 campaign. And now we’ve won funding to extend our pandemic wages of over $19 per hour for home care workers as well as funding for big wage increases in nursing homes.
In addition to the huge wins on Time for $20, we also won improvements to WA Cares which increases the number of people eligible for long-term care by over one million people. And we won big improvements in the in-home client personal needs allowance (PNA) – almost 85% of the home care clients who currently have co-pays will no longer have to pay them, and the rest will see much-reduced co-pays. Our clients and family members will be able to keep more money to use on their personal needs, including housing costs, utilities, food, and personal items.
Similar to our PNA win, we are also regularly fighting to better the lives of our clients and our communities. That’s why this year we also demanded and won:
- Funding for community-based organizations to educate and provide resources to help people apply for the Working Families Tax Credit, a new benefit starting in 2023 that provides eligible individuals up to an additional $1,200 on their tax return.
- Affordable prescription drugs: A new prescription price transparency board was created, and a new law requires health plans, including health plans offered to public employees and their dependents, to cap the price for a 30-day supply of insulin at $35.
- Increased affordable housing: Increased funding and several new laws expand the ability to allow local governments to build affordable housing across Washington and to provide permanent housing to those who need it.
- Funding to expand Apple Health for Washington residents regardless of immigration status, beginning in January 2024.
The past two years have been rough on everyone, but if there’s one thing all of these wins can remind us of it is that even in the hardest of times, we’re stronger together.
– Sterling Harders, SEIU 775 President
WA IPs: Know your HADit reporting guidelines
As caregivers, we know it is rewarding to help make someone’s life better, but at times it can be challenging because of the nature of our work. We often work in isolated environments that can put us at risk of harassment, abuse, and discrimination, which is why we helped make the landmark HADit legislation into law and have continued to fight for resources if any of us experience any of these.
That’s why I’m excited that the new HADit reporting guidelines were created by Washington State DSHS and Consumer Direct (CDWA), in partnership with SEIU 775. I think it’s crucial that caregivers are prepared to identify these situations and know what our options are.
The guidelines identify three levels of risk and provide recommendations on steps we can take if we find ourselves in one of these situations:
- Level 1: Feel uncomfortable, but don’t feel you’re at risk
- Level 2: Feel unsafe, but do not want or need to leave immediately
- Level 3: Feel unsafe and want or need to leave immediately
The guidelines also include accountability for DSHS and CDWA representatives if we reach out to them, so our experiences aren’t ignored. I trust with these guidelines, our caregivers are empowered to provide excellent care to others.
Learn more about the steps you can take at seiu775.org/hadit
– Sylvia Liang, SEIU 775 Caregiver and Executive Board Member, Seattle
Nursing home workers win raises!
Nursing homes were short-staffed even before the pandemic. That isn’t safe for me, and it isn’t safe for my residents. When COVID hit, workers were leaving, and no one else was even applying with what wages have been. This job is something we do out of love and duty, but that doesn’t mean we should have to take a vow of poverty. We deserve to be compensated for our essential work.
Hundreds of nursing home workers around the state called and lobbied their representatives to tell them nursing home wages need to be funded, and they heard us. The funding for wage increases for nursing home workers will arrive this summer, which is when our bargaining teams will be negotiating new raises and wage scales. For me, a raise means I’ll be able to afford to fix some things around my house. I’ll be able to squirrel some money away and not have to worry about that one week a month when all the bills are due.
This funding will also mean better staffing, and more nursing homes will be able to stay open. I’ll get to spend more time with my residents and provide quality care. Without this funding, we would’ve had no hope of doing any of that.
I am so proud of everyone who has stuck it out in nursing homes during the pandemic. It has not been easy. And I have so much gratitude for all the nursing home and home care workers who talked about how important it was for us to get this funding.
Learn more at seiu775.org/2022legislativewins
– Shelly Hughes, SEIU 775 Nursing Home Caregiver and Executive Board Member, Bellingham
We won full funding for the updated IP contract with agency parity and continuing enhanced rates (hazard pay)!
Home care workers will continue to receive higher wages through a combination of hazard pay and our bargained contract raises through the rest of our 2021-2023 contract, which expires in June 2023.
While we didn’t get everyone all the way to $20 an hour like we wanted, we made huge progress! We secured funding to continue IPs starting wage of $19.26 (including hazard pay) and higher wages along each wage scale step. Workers at the top of the wage scale are now making more than $21.50 (not counting differentials). Throughout the pandemic, home care workers have had to be so brave and take on the risks to ourselves and our families. Hazard pay has made the difference for a lot of us already working full-time to not have to choose which bill we’re going to pay this month.
Last year, I was diagnosed with cancer. It was caught in time, but it was only because of hazard pay that it was possible for me to pay my rent while I was out of work for surgery.
I know there are other people walking around right now in a scenario like that, where immediate action will be what saves their lives. We’ve needed this funding to take care of ourselves, and that translates to safer clients, too.
This funding is support for caregivers, but it’s also support for our elderly, our children, and our families and communities who need the care we provide. It will help provide dignity and quality of life for everyone needing and providing long-term care. We can take better care of our clients when we can take care of ourselves.
Learn more at seiu775.org/2022legislativewins
– Julie Sparkman, SEIU 775 Caregiver, Spokane
We will continue to hold DSHS accountable until every IP has successfully moved to CDWA
As an IP, I made the move to Consumer Direct (CDWA) at the beginning of this year. It took some work and a lot of patience to get through the paperwork, but I was able to get it all done. I won’t say it was the easiest thing to do, so if you are still working on it, I recommend that you try to do a little bit each day so you can get it done in time.
I know a lot of IPs have reported long hold times with the CDWA call center. That is why caregivers and our Union demanded that DSHS extend the deadline for Phase 2 IPs. The CDWA transition is expected to be complete by summer 2022, but we must make sure DSHS and CDWA give us the help we are asking for to get through this process.
All our benefits and protections that we count on will also stay in place once we move to CDWA. There will even be some new benefits – for example, we will get paid directly by CDWA for all hours worked and not have to collect co-pays from our clients.
Learn more at seiu775.org/cdwa. And please reach out to our Member Resource Center if you have questions about the transition or if you think you have been paid incorrectly.
– Manuel Brito, SEIU 775 Caregiver and Executive Board Member, Mount Vernon
Welcome caregivers of Communitas in Bremerton who recently voted to join our Union!