Fresno County home care providers–mostly women of color–rallied in a continued push for livable wages and healthcare after the Board of Supervisors proposed a mere 20-cent counter at the bargaining table

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DKC News,
May 21, 2024

Fresno County, CA—Today, Fresno In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) home care providers—members of SEIU Local 2015, the nation’s largest long-term care union, and California’s largest labor union representing more than 470,000 nursing home workers and home care providers—gathered at the Fresno County Board of Supervisors to demand livable wages and comprehensive healthcare benefits. 

Over the last nine years, the cost of living in Fresno County went up by 38.4%, while the county’s supervisors raised the wages of their home care providers during that same nine-year period by a total of only 4.6%—currently only $0.60 above the minimum wage. This means that buying power for the average home care provider has decreased 33.8%. During that same time period Fresno Supervisors gave themselves regular raises, including a 6.6% raise in 2015 alone.

IHSS workers in Fresno County are also demanding adequate healthcare benefits—a critical issue that the Fresno County Board of Supervisors has refused to address. The county’s current IHSS wage is only $16.60 an hour. IHSS workers are struggling to make ends meet, leaving  the long-term care industry altogether and leaving the county with a shortage of care providers. Last year, more than 625,000 authorized hours of care for people in need in Fresno County went unused, indicating a caregiver shortage fueled by low wages. At the same time, demand for home care is exploding.

Currently, the county proposes to take healthcare away from 2,000 Fresno County IHSS care providers in order to transfer those funds to cover a small wage increase. Care providers and allies in the community insist that this is unacceptable. 

There’s no better investment for a county to make than in the IHSS program. By providing County IHSS workers with a livable wage, an additional $580 million a year in state and federal funds would be brought into our local communities, creating jobs and increasing tax revenue. This would also attract and retain the caregivers that our county must have to meet the exploding need for home care.

A recent SEIU 2015 survey shows:

  • Working multiple jobs: 80.7% of IHSS providers in Fresno County reported working multiple jobs – at least some of the time – just to make ends meet. That’s nearly 4 out of every 5 providers in the county. 
  • Food insecurity: 42.3% of IHSS providers in Fresno County experience consistent food insecurity, relying on CalFresh and/or food banks at least monthly. 
  • Transportation insecurity: 84.8% of IHSS providers in Fresno County who have cars miss regular maintenance on their car because it is too expensive.
  • Housing disparity: 53.5% of IHSS providers in Fresno County have difficulty paying their mortgage or rent each month, with many reporting that they are sometimes or always late with their payments.
    • 59.2% of those we surveyed spend at least 50% of their income on housing, and 19.3% spend more than 75%.
  • Healthcare disparity: 55.7% of IHSS providers in Fresno County are sometimes or often unable to access medication because they cannot afford the cost of prescriptions.
    • 57.5% of IHSS providers also reported that sometimes or often are prevented from visiting the doctor due to concerns about cost.

“IHSS home care providers must be paid and treated as the essential workers that they are. These workers are the backbone of our community, yet they’re struggling to survive. The Fresno County Board of Supervisors must recognize the critical work of in-home care providers by paying livable wages and preserving access to healthcare for these providers,” said Arnulfo De La Cruz, President of SEIU Local 2015.

“I am 62. Frankly, medical care is too expensive — especially since I don’t make a whole lot — but I need it at this age. Sad thing is, it would cost me almost $200 a month to get better dental insurance. Cost of living is going up and going up, but they don’t want to give us a raise? We caregivers need adequate healthcare and wages we can survive on,” said Mark Blodgett, a Fresno County IHSS provider and an SEIU 2015 member. Mark’s full story is available here

“As caregivers, we give our everything to the folks we care for. We’re not asking for the moon here, or for the county to make us millionaires. We just want livable wages, no cuts to our healthcare, and real solutions from Fresno County Board members,” said Bill Peterson, a Fresno County IHSS provider and an SEIU 2015 member. Bill’s full story is available here

“Right now, I have to choose which bill I can skip each month in order to purchase groceries. My job is very rewarding, and it’s looked down upon in society…I thought about working somewhere else that pays more, that offers health benefits and that would allow me to buy groceries and pay my bills. Right now, my salary is $16.25 an hour and it is not working. I could earn more as a fast food worker or janitor. I don’t want to work in fast food, my heart lies in caregiving, but I have thought about my options. I was put on this planet to do this, so the Fresno County Board of Supervisors need to spend a day in our shoes to know why it’s important to create a solution and increase our wages before this industry collapses.”,” said Wendy Davenport, a Fresno County IHSS provider and an SEIU 2015 member. Wendy’s full story is available here

“I don’t like that the Board is trying to take our healthcare away. I try to see both sides, but these officials we help to elect don’t seem to care about our health care needs. I can’t afford to give my income to cover healthcare, when I have all these other bills to take care of. Not all of us are able to get help from the state, since we’re maxing out our hours. We want to be more self-sufficient, which the Fresno County Board should also want. Why won’t they invest in the county’s long-term care? I feel like my community very much values what I do, but the Supervisors don’t value us as caregivers.,” said Christy Clark, a Fresno County IHSS provider and an SEIU 2015 member. Christy’s full story is available here

“Do I wish I could pay for all my stuff with just my provider job? Absolutely. But it’s just not possible right now. If I didn’t have two jobs, I wouldn’t be able to afford groceries or pay my other bills. Just last month, I remember having barely enough to get me through the weeks. I have to calculate each cent and ensure I’ll make it out on the other side on to the next month. It’s not right. But it’s where I am in life right now, and it’s like that for a lot of care providers in this county. We barely make ends meet, and healthcare coverage is the last thing we should have to worry about,” said Chue Moua, a Fresno County IHSS provider and an SEIU 2015 member. Chue’s full story is available here

Over the weekend preceding the BOS meeting, SEIU Local 2015 members rallied together to  build community support and maintain momentum. Members went from church to church connecting with community members, galvanizing conversations, and collecting signatures. Their tireless efforts have laid the groundwork for a powerful display of solidarity.  

Assembly member Dr. Joaquin Arambula expresses support for Fresno IHSS providers in a show of solidarity.
The Central Labor Council is standing in solidarity with Fresno IHSS providers!

SEIU Local 2015 is committed to advocating for policies that support in-home care providers and those they care for, including livable wages and benefits, as well as access to training and professional development opportunities. We urge the Fresno County Board of Supervisors to work with us to address these pressing issues and ensure that all who qualify have access to the care they need and deserve in the comfort of their own homes.
To learn more about SEIU Local 2015 visit or on social media @SEIU2015.