Kim Ballon, IHSS and SEIU Local 2015
I wanted to introduce myself to you, and give you a little background on who I am and how I became involved with IHSS and SEIU Local 2015.
I’m a divorced single woman whose children are grown and on their own. My daughter is 28 years-old and has been married for one year. My son is 27 years-old and recently engaged. As a mother, it was important for me to raise productive members of society who were self-sufficient and able to give back to their communities, I’m proud to say I’ve done just that.
I owned my own home for 11 years but lost it as my alimony stopped and my wages were low. I could have had alimony for life as I was entitled to it, though I chose to receive alimony only until our son was 20. I had my plan while raising my children, I worked full-time and went to school full-time. I have an associates of science degree in MRI Technology, am a Certified Medical Assistant, and love being involved with our union. My voice is powerful and filled with truth and I’ve found a platform where my voice can be heard. In this union, I’ve found like minded people who uphold integrity, honesty and value each other. I’m committed to SEIU Local 2015 and I will continue to speak out for myself, for those of us who do not have a voice, and for those who are scared or afraid to speak out. There is no shame in this girl’s game.
I first became an IHSS caregiver in 2014 after my sister was involved in an accident that left her disabled. My sister had nothing other than the clothes on her back when she came to live with me, she was in a wheelchair with her legs in casts from her accident. She qualified for IHSS and needed someone to care for her, that someone became me. She lived with me for 1 ½ years, in my tiny apartment of 300 sq. feet. My salary for 2014 was $4,500, in 2015 it was $7,500, and in 2016 it was $18,000. It was rough, but my sister and I managed by visiting food banks and a local church for dinner till we were approved for Cal Fresh, though, many times we went to bed hungry.
As I stated, my salary with IHSS in 2014 was not nearly enough to live on. Our first paycheck of the month went to pay the rent and we split whatever else was left over, the second check of the month we split. This was how we lived for till she moved back home and our mother became her caregiver.
My most recent client with IHSS passed away on June 1, 2017. She was a stage four lung cancer patient. In the nearly two years of working for her, we became friends. I could relate to her because we had a lot in common, our daughters were close in age and so were we. We were so close she named me as secondary on her advanced directive and also on her five wishes. I was her patient advocate and a liaison between her and her medical team including her social workers. I was told by one of her case managers that she lived one year longer than expected due largely in part to the care I provided for her. What an amazing thing to hear.
I’ll never forget that upon hiring me she asked if I’ve ever cared for the terminally ill and if I was afraid to take care of her because of her illness. Little did she know I love end of life care because I feel a person’s birth and death are very sacred events. She entrusted her life to me and I did my best to honor her as I do with everyone in my life.
But one of my most profound moments in caring for her was shaving her head. As I’m shaving her head and watching her hair fall to the floor, I was reminded of Luke 12:7 which states, “Indeed, the very hairs on your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows”.
These experiences and others are why I wholeheartedly believe in my work and SEIU Local 2015. I was introduced to the union by Juan Lezama and Miguel Benitez, but I’ve also met Sergio Donis, along with Thomas and Elizabeth. Everyone has been very welcoming and open in sharing their stories. I’m enjoying my work with our union and have always rooted for the underdog.
I believe the power of the people in a union can outweigh our opposition. We the people have the power to create any type of environment for ourselves including our elected officials. We are the ones responsible because we voted them in, we are that powerful. We are so powerful we can also take our elected officials out of office by not voting for them at re-election. I’d love nothing more than to continue with this fight of equality for all. Respect and dignity are what all Americans are entitled to, regardless of our socioeconomic status.
“We draw our strength from the very despair in which we have been forced to live. We shall endure”. ~ Cesar Chavez