“No justice, no peace!” Activists led by seniors, people with disabilities, and their caregivers shame Board of Supervisors for turning their backs on the county’s home care program
Struggling to make ends meet on minimum wage, activists say county leaders must invest in the home care program so caregivers can afford to keep doing their job
Fresno — After nearly a year of contract negotiations with county representatives and going 10 years without a wage increase from the county, caregivers with the In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program were joined by activists including local veterans, faith leaders and social justice groups in occupying the Hall of Records building where the Board of Supervisors held their meeting. Dozens of activists risked arrest by police for refusing to leave and continuing to chant and have their voices heard. In total, 8 activists were arrested including labor leader Dolores Huerta and SEIU 2015 Executive Vice President Arnulfo de la Cruz. As of 1:30 PM today all activists who were arrested have been released.
Activists organized today’s rally and civil disobedience after numerous attempts by caregivers, seniors, and people with disabilities urging county leadership to prioritize the needs of those who require in-home care to survive. They argue that it is the county’s job to represent the needs of their constituents and right now, IHSS caregivers are struggling to make ends meet and are urging the Board of Supervisors to support a new contract with a livable wage. Currently, county home care providers earn just minimum wage, receive little if any benefits, and some must rely on federal assistance to feed their families. However, the county continues to exclude new resources for the IHSS Program, sending a clear message that seniors, people with disabilities, and their caregivers are not a priority. At a recent bargaining session, the county had offered only a $.10 raise.
“We are struggling to make ends meet doing one of the most important jobs in the world,” said Martha Valladares, who lives in Fresno and cares for her daughter who has cerebral palsy. “We help people survive in the comfort of their own homes yet the work we do is not treated with dignity and respect by our county officials. We are here today to let them see us and hear us. It’s time to prioritize the IHSS program.”
Today, over 17,000 Fresno County low-income seniors and people with disabilities rely on a caregiver with the IHSS Program to live as independently as possible in their own home. Caregivers provide support with administering medication, transportation to doctor’s appointments, meal preparation, grooming, and bathing for elderly people who can no longer fend for themselves and people living with disabilities such as down syndrome, multiple sclerosis, and autism. People get to stay in the comfort of their own home thanks to the IHSS Program instead of being institutionalized in hospitals and psych wards.
“The senior population is on the rise and Fresno County cannot turn its back to this reality,” said Maria Xiquin, Regional Director for SEIU Local 2015. “To keep this workforce alive to meet the demand of in-home care, the county needs to invest in competitive pay and benefits for caregivers. We have to work on solutions that address the growing demand for in-home care.”
According to the California State Plan on Aging, senior population is expected to increase by 106,000 people in Fresno County alone while the rest of the state is also growing grayer. According to a report by UC Berkeley, the senior population in California is expected to increase from 5.2 million in 2015 to 9 million by 2030.
As activists marched on the ground, local elected officials and organizations also submitted letters of support to the county. Letters were sent by El Concilio de Fresno, Inc., Central Valley Leadership Roundtable (CVLR), Concerned Citizens for Representative Government, Mi Familia Vota, Central Valley Partnership, and Fresno City Councilmember Esmeralda Soria.
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