Sacramento, 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 – went door-to-door across Sacramento County to educate the public about the urgency of Sacramento’s care crisis.
Sacramento In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) workers, a workforce that is 77% women and 70% people of color, are once again sounding the alarm that those who give and receive care in Sacramento remain at risk. Due to low wages and limited access to healthcare, IHSS workers struggle to afford healthcare and housing. 61% of IHSS workers can’t afford the cost of medications and an alarming 73% have difficulty paying for housing each month.
As IHSS workers struggle to survive, 1 in 5 report likely leaving the home care profession in the next year–deepening Sacramento’s already-severe shortage of providers. In 2022, over 2.1 million authorized care hours went unused–which means many older adults and people with disabilities in Sacramento qualified for in-home care but were unable to actually receive care services due to the provider shortage.
Without this essential healthcare service, IHSS recipients risk homelessness or institutionalization. The crisis will only worsen as Sacramento is projected to gain approximately 1,500 new IHSS recipients annually.
The grassroots community education drive takes place as negotiations between Sacramento’s Board of Supervisors and IHSS workers continue to stagnate after 11 months at the negotiation table. Sacramento IHSS workers hope that by informing the neighborhoods of Supervisors Rich Desmond and Pat Hume of the County’s care crisis, the Union’s bargaining team will be able to begin movement at the bargaining table again.
“Our Supervisors think IHSS workers can handle a slash to our healthcare budget to cover wage increases. It’s honestly dehumanizing,” said Sabrina Pike, a Sacramento IHSS worker. “I’ve qualified for the County’s healthcare plan for over 3 years and still don’t have access to benefits. It’s horrifying to think that there are 1,100 other healthcare workers like me in Sacramento who can’t access the County’s healthcare.”
The healthcare ultimatum has been a point of contention between the County and the Union’s bargaining team for months, with County officials claiming that IHSS providers should instead get healthcare through Medi-Cal or Covered California.
“They’re completely out of touch with working people. 86% of Sacramento’s home care providers work multiple jobs to make ends meet, which puts many of us just above the threshold to qualify for Medi-Cal, but still unable to pay for healthcare on the market,” said Sacramento IHSS provider, Olga Evans. “They’re essentially forcing us to choose between struggling to survive on poverty wages or struggling to survive without healthcare. When will our Supervisors see IHSS workers as worthy of both?”
The countywide day of action coincides with President Biden’s recent proclamation of November as National Family Caregivers Month. “[Caregivers] are the backbone of our country, caring for young children, aging parents, disabled veterans, injured service members, and others who need support and medical assistance,” said President Biden. “Let us celebrate and honor our caregivers and renew our efforts to protect their dignity, health, and security.”
As long-term caregivers become increasingly visible on the national stage, Sacramento home care providers are doing their part to educate their community on the vital nature of family caregivers.
“When my partner’s need for care increased in 2009, I had to make the difficult decision to leave my career to become his full-time caregiver,” said Sharon Duchessi, a longtime IHSS worker in Sacramento. “Our household income was significantly reduced because of the near-poverty wages home care providers make. Now, my partner and I share a one bedroom apartment with a roommate. It’s the only way we can guarantee we don’t fall into homelessness.”
Sacramento IHSS workers remain dedicated to securing a strong contract that effectively addresses the urgency of Sacramento’s care crisis and grants providers a livable wage without limiting access to healthcare.
To learn more about SEIU Local 2015 visit www.SEIU2015.org or on social media @SEIU2015.