Eureka, CA – Today, members 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 – held a rally at the Humboldt County Courthouse to demand livable wages and urgent action to address the county’s severe caregiver shortage.
In Home Supportive Services (IHSS) workers are calling on the Humboldt Board of Supervisors to take immediate action to ensure seniors and people with disabilities can access the life-saving care they need. These providers have been without a contract with the County for 641 days, and only because the County has failed to offer a wage proposal that reflects the essential role of IHSS workers.
Home care is a critical component of Humboldt County’s care infrastructure, but low wages (currently $16 an hour, only 50 cents above minimum wage) and nonexistent benefits have made it difficult to attract and retain caregivers. Some are being forced to leave the profession altogether – worsening an already severe care shortage.
Supervisors’ refusal to provide living wages to Humboldt caregivers is even more shocking, given that the County only pays 16 cents on the dollar for wage increases, with the Federal and State government paying the remaining cost share for IHSS wage increases.
In fact, Humboldt County has the fourth most severe provider shortage in California. In 2022, the County was unable to find caregivers to work 545,000 care hours that seniors and people with disabilities needed to live safely at home. This is 16.3% of all authorized care hours in the county – three times the percentage of unused care hours for the entire state.
Humboldt’s seniors living in the further parts of the county are the hardest hit by this crisis. IHSS workers are vital links in this context, offering crucial care to those who live long distances from medical centers or specialized services. The provider shortage jeopardizes the safety, wellbeing, and autonomy of these populations – driving more people into institutionalized care and hours away from our community.
“County supervisors have willfully allowed Humboldt County to rise in ranks to the 4th most severe caregiver shortage out of all 58 counties in California,” said SEIU 2015 Executive Vice President, Kim Evon. “After 641 days without a contract, their continued inaction is putting more care recipients at risk of hospitalization, institutionalization, or homelessness.”
“I drive at least one hour a day to care for my rural client, amounting to hundreds of dollars spent each month on gas alone,” said IHSS provider Heidi Chandler. “With gas over $6 per gallon, there’s no way I can continue to survive on my IHSS wages.”
In addition to addressing the severity of the caregiver shortage, the Union’s negotiating team notes that its wage proposal costs the county $536,000 yearly, but would bring an additional $2.7 million into Humboldt’s economy from state and federal sources.
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 Board of Supervisors to work with us to address these pressing issues and ensure that all who qualify can access the care they need in the comfort of their own homes.
Participating SEIU members will be available on-site for interviews and can speak to today’s action.
To learn more about SEIU Local 2015 visit www.SEIU2015.org or on social media @SEIU2015.