Hundreds of caregivers converge on State Capitol as 13-City “Care-A-Van” intensifies pressure for “Our Care Counts” bill
Sacramento, CA – Hundreds of In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program caregivers from across California rallied at the State Capitol today, escalating the pressure on legislators to pass AB 1672 (Haney). The colorful and energetic rally of hundreds of caregivers from the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 2015 and United Domestic Workers (UDW) was the culmination of a week of action and speaking out by caregivers, who criss-crossed the state in a “Care-A-Van” building momentum for their “Our Care Counts” legislation, AB 1672, which empowers caregivers to transform care for older Californians and people with disabilities.
“Quite simply, California isn’t ready to provide the care our exploding population of older Californians will need by the end of this decade, but caregivers are fighting to change that and to protect the human right to age in place and to support people with disabilities so that they can live in our communities,” said SEIU Local 2015 President Arnulfo De La Cruz. “For too long, California has relied on the underpaid labor of women of color to provide critical care infrastructure; our fight for AB 1672 is a fight to value and respect caregivers so they can care for California.”
“The current IHSS bargaining structure is broken. Caregivers are forced to fight for scraps at 56 county-by-county bargaining tables, while the state struggles to recruit, retain, and support this vital workforce,” said UDW Executive Director Doug Moore. “The governor’s Master Plan for Aging estimates that we will soon face a labor shortage of 3.2 million direct care workers. The only way we can begin to address this care crisis is through statewide bargaining, and the recognition that caregivers are the key to transforming the long-term care system in California.”
The core promise of IHSS – that every Californian has the human right to live and age in the setting of one’s choice – is at risk because of a workforce crisis. Caught between poverty wages and soaring costs of living, inflation, and economic uncertainty, caregivers are forced to leave the work they love. The result is a crisis in care that will only get worse as the number of older adults in California doubles this decade.
“California’s home care program is in crisis. If we want to avoid a full blown catastrophe, we have let our caregivers have a seat at the table,” said Assemblymember Matt Haney (D-San Francisco), author of AB 1672. “AB 1672 allows caregivers to directly bargain their wages and working conditions with the State. This direct bargaining process will transform our home care program and help our caregivers to provide better services for elderly Californians and people with disabilities.”
“California needs to increase our compassionate, diverse, skilled caregiving workforce. But we’ll never build a strong workforce by paying poverty wages and locking caregivers out of living wages and any hope of retirement,” said Senator Lola Smallwood-Cuevas (D-Los Angeles). “We must pass AB 1672 and change the course of history for everyone who is touched by home care in our state – the growing number of people who need it, and the Black and Brown women whose labor makes it possible.”
“IHHS clients are the same members of our community I serve through Medi-Cal in my Bakersfield clinic. Safety net clients have every right to the best care – but it’s getting harder and harder to find because the state of California has grossly undervalued the people who provide it,” said Dr. Jasmeet Bains, Chair of the Assembly’s Committee on Aging and Long-Term Care. “I’m inspired by the determination of IHSS care providers – many immigrants and women of color – to improve their lives and the care they provide by demanding a seat at the statewide table where IHSS decisions are made.”
Even before the pandemic, nearly 32 million authorized care hours went unused, indicating that tens of thousands of older Californians and people with disabilities went without needed care. If California doesn’t fix the gaps in our in-home caregiving system, starting with valuing caregivers, California faces a full-blown catastrophe as the size of our elderly population nearly doubles in a few short years.
Recruiting and retaining qualified caregivers for IHSS is increasingly impossible as fragmented IHSS program administration, split between 56 public authorities, keeps workers constantly struggling for marginal wage gains. Most counties pay barely above minimum wage; not a single county in California pays home care providers a living wage.
“In this field, bonds are created – but due to poverty wages, providers have to be ripped away from their recipients. This is a huge problem,” said Steven Payán, an SEIU Local 2015 member from Yolo County. “I love this work and I’m proud that I’m part of ensuring that my client, Caesar, is able to live his fullest life. Continuing this work is why I am joining half a million California caregivers like me in asking legislators to pass AB 1672 – because Our Care Counts!”
“In Kern County where I’m from, we haven’t had a new contract in over six years and we have zero health benefits,” said IHSS provider Sandy Moreno of Bakersfield, CA. “Caregivers across California struggle to make ends meet while we provide life-saving care to our clients. We need statewide bargaining so we can win the wages and benefits we deserve, and the dignity and respect we have earned.”
Assembly Bill 1672 would allow home care providers to use their collective voice to stabilize and strengthen care for hundreds of thousands of older Californians and people with disabilities. The bill would afford care workers the opportunity to transform and strengthen the In-Home Supportive Services program by allowing them to directly negotiate with the Governor’s administration on critical workforce issues including wages and training.
The rally of hundreds of care providers capped the statewide “Care-a-Van” bus tour that mobilized thousands of care providers and their supporters at campaign events across the state, from Fresno and San Bernardino to San Francisco and San Benito. (See map).
The bill is currently awaiting action in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
AB 1672—“Our Care Counts”—is supported by SEIU 2015, which represents approximately 420,000 IHSS providers across 37 counties, and UDW/AFSCME Local 3930, which represents more than 140,000 IHSS providers in 21 counties.