SEIU 2015 caregivers mobilized across the state, including rallies in Fresno and Sacramento, to call on elected officials to address these urgent needs
Today, In Home Supportive Services (IHSS) care providers of SEIU Local 2015—the nation’s largest long-term care union and California’s largest labor union representing nearly 450,000 nursing home workers and home care providers—rallied at Board of Supervisors offices across the state in a day of action to call for livable wages and healthcare benefits.
Across California, home care providers—who care for the state’s older adults and people with disabilities—mobilized in Fresno, Sacramento, Napa, Sonoma, and San Mateo to bring to light the urgent challenges they experience due to low wages and inadequate healthcare benefits. Workers at these mobilizations are speaking out on behalf of more than 71,000 home care providers throughout the five counties.
Despite the critical role these caregivers serve in their communities, local elected officials in Fresno and Sacramento have refused to approve modest increases to their pay and protections for their healthcare benefits.
In Fresno County, the board threatens to completely eliminate healthcare coverage in order to bring their shockingly lowball offer of a 15¢ raise up to 85¢. Supervisors in both counties have even noted that many providers qualify for Medi-Cal—a tacit acknowledgement that the wages they offer caregivers is so low.
In Sacramento County, the Board of Supervisors has cynically held caregivers’ healthcare hostage, publicly stating that any further wage increases would come at the cost of reduced health coverage.
“In today’s statewide action, in-home care providers across California have shown inspiring unity in their call for living wages and adequate healthcare benefits,” said Arnulfo De La Cruz, President of SEIU Local 2015. “Approximately 75% of IHSS Caregivers statewide report being underpaid for the essential work they do. This is unacceptable. As the need for care continues to grow, it is critical that we treat these care providers with the respect and dignity that they deserve.”
Recent polling of in-home care workers in Fresno and Sacramento County underscores the urgent challenges that many of these essential workers face in making ends meet. Some of the distressing findings include:
- In Fresno:
- More than 80% of home care providers reported working multiple jobs – at least some of the time – just to make ends meet. That’s 4 out of every 5 providers in the county.
- More than 55% of IHSS providers are sometimes or often unable to access medication because they cannot afford the cost of prescriptions. More than 57% of IHSS providers reported that they’re often or sometimes prevented from visiting the doctor due to concerns about cost.
- Almost half of home care providers experience consistent food insecurity and are forced to rely on CalFresh and/or food banks.
- In Sacramento:
- More than 60% of home care providers are unable to access medication because they can’t afford the cost of prescriptions.
- Nearly 60% of home care providers have had to skip a doctor’s visit due to financial concerns.
- Nearly three-quarters of home care providers have difficulty paying their mortgage/rent each month, with many reporting they are sometimes or always late with payments.
These issues continue to exacerbate the already significant staffing challenges affecting California’s long-term care system, with thousands of care providers leaving the industry every year in search of better-paying jobs. For example, last year nearly a million authorized care hours went unused in Fresno County, indicating thousands of people needed care but could not find a provider. Additionally, across the country, approximately 10,000 people turn 65 every day. As this number of older adults and people with disabilities who require in-home care continues to grow throughout California, it is critical to attract, and retain, a more robust workforce to meet the need.
“Being a provider is a tough profession. You need to have a deep passion for helping those in need. But beyond that, you also need to be willing to fight for your rights,” said Fresno IHSS Provider Wendy Davenport. “I’ve been an IHSS provider for over a decade. I’ve seen this industry change dramatically over time, and the positive outcomes we’ve won only came because we pushed hard—we’re still pushin’! Being a provider is a job that requires a lot of determination and commitment. That’s why IHSS workers like me join fierce pickets and other labor movement actions: to make our voices heard and get the change that we need not just for ourselves, but for our care recipients and for everyone in the IHSS program! They’re the reason why we must fight so hard. They’re the reason why being organized across counties is so important. Right now, we have power in numbers, and those numbers only grow with every action we do to help make the system more equitable for all of us.” Read Wendy’s story here.
“For home care providers experiencing our own health conditions, healthcare or a livable wage is not a choice—both are a matter of survival,” said Sacramento IHSS Provider Constance Hill. “I worry that, without my healthcare or a livable wage, I won’t be able to care for my client much longer.” Read Constance’s story here.
“This work is physically, mentally, and emotionally challenging,” said Napa IHSS Provider Jeannie Hutton. “We need a livable wage and a retirement plan. We need a future for ourselves so we can create a future for our special needs children and the seniors and disabled adults we care for.”
“As the cost of living in Sonoma continues to rise, providers and recipients are having a difficult time making ends meet. Some are homeless and others are being forced to move out of California,” said Sonoma IHSS Provider Bonita Graham. “My son grew up in Sonoma County – we don’t want to move, and frankly we cannot afford to move.”
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 these County Boards 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 www.SEIU2015.org.