Put simply, UDW members and our families live in communities that are at the greatest danger from the effects of climate change and pollution. For example, climate change is leading to longer, more severe droughts which in turn lead to deadlier wildfires like that one that displaced hundreds of our members in Butte County in 2018. And did you know that oil and gas extraction is usually located near low-income communities? Our members in Kern County, where most of California’s oil and gas wells are, breathe some of the most polluted air in the United States.
The connection between a labor union like UDW and climate justice is clear: Changes to the environment, including pollution, poor air and water quality and rising sea levels, affect working people and people of color more than anyone else. The facts of climate inequality:
This plan helps UDW in its mission to protect those in our care and better the lives of home care and child care providers, our families and our communities—where we work and where we live. Environmental justice means standing up for the rights of our members and our clients to live healthy lives.
SACRAMENTO – A report released yesterday by the California State Auditor found that the state and counties have failed to adequately plan for and fund the In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program, a crucial program that provides home care services to more than half a million low-income seniors and people with disabilities throughout California.
The report, requested by UDW/AFSCME Local 3930 and Assemblymember Tasha Boerner Horvath in 2020, found that over a five-year period:
“This report paints a tragic and unconscionable picture of what’s happening to this state’s seniors and people with disabilities, but it’s nothing UDW members don’t already know,” said UDW Executive Director Doug Moore. “In nearly every county IHSS providers have struggled at the bargaining table for the smallest of wage and benefit increases while our neighbors and community members who need care suffer. This has to end.”
The report also found that IHSS provider wages, on average, are just 58% of what constitutes a living wage. Precise numbers vary across the state and the starkest contrasts are seen in counties like San Diego.
“I make just above minimum wage for the care I provide,” said UDW President and IHSS provider Editha Adams, who lives in San Diego County. “The cost of living here is over $24/hour. How am I supposed to provide for my family? How are we supposed to attract more caregivers to this job?”
“This report paints a tragic and unconscionable picture of what’s happening to this state’s seniors and people with disabilities, but it’s nothing UDW members don’t already know”UDW Executive Director Doug Moore
The report stressed that the number of Californians who need care is only growing, and is expected to increase by 52% to 900,000 by 2030. Demographic shifts mean that there will be fewer family members available to provide unpaid care, and the need for qualified, well-paid caregivers will only increase. Meanwhile, the majority of California counties have transitioned to paying IHSS providers minimum wage, rather than higher wages.
“I’m in Kern County, where we haven’t seen a wage increase in five years,” said Yesenia Martinez, an IHSS provider who cares for a low-income senior in her community of Rosamand, CA. “We’re essential workers in a pandemic, and yet the county insists that they can’t pay us more. It’s demoralizing. We just want to make sure our clients are taken care of and that we can pay our bills and put food on the table for our families. That’s not too much to ask.”
The report also found that low-income seniors and people with disabilities who qualify for IHSS experience severe delays; it takes 72 days on average for their applications to be approved, and more than three months to be matched with an IHSS caregiver and begin receiving care.
“Counties are creating this care crisis by not adequately planning for or funding this program, and the State needs to hold them accountable while ensuring a funding structure that incentivizes a living wage for providers,” said Assemblymember Tasha Boerner Horvath. “It’s up to all of us—the state, the counties, and lawmakers like me—to fix this. We need to invest in IHSS and the workers who make it happen, so that every Californian who needs long-term care can receive it.”
Union members, staff, and volunteers counted the votes yesterday at UDW’s San Diego headquarters while union members from all over the state observed the count via Zoom. A final tally yielded 14,360 “yes” votes and 1,612 “no” votes. The new dues structure, which was proposed and approved by a committee of member leaders, means that each member’s dues will be calculated as a percentage of what they earn, rather than based on a tiered system. With a stronger foundation of resources, we are excited to build more power together in order to fight for what IHSS providers, our clients, and our families truly need.
Looking back at the past 15 years, it’s clear how far we’ve come as caregivers — in 2006, IHSS providers made an average of just $6.75 per hour. Today, that average wage has more than doubled to $14.61. In the same span of time, UDW has won overtime pay, paid sick days, direct deposit, and PPE for IHSS providers during the pandemic, in addition to protecting the IHSS program from cuts time and time again. When COVID-19 hit, the world saw the life-saving importance of our work as caregivers — now it’s time to prepare to win the respect and resources we deserve.
Under the new dues structure, we have committed to using our increased power in the fights that matter most to caregivers and our clients. Yesterday’s “yes” verdict means that we can put more resources toward fighting for higher wages, better access to health care, retirement security, a stronger IHSS program that’s safe from cuts, and statewide — not county-by-county — IHSS bargaining. Our shared past has shown us that no one can accomplish these goals alone. But together, we can make this future possible.
We know that IHSS saves lives, saves money, and is a critical resource for hundreds of thousands of Californians and their families.
That’s why we use our power to fight any attempts to cut IHSS. And we win.
Cutting IHSS was on Governor Gavin Newsom’s “to-do” list in May. After California’s closed-down economy presented the state with a $54 billion shortfall, the governor proposed drastic cuts to many important programs. One of those proposed cuts was a 7 percent reduction, across the board, to IHSS hours. Many of us lived through cuts to hours in previous economic downturns, and we weren’t about to go through it again. A 7 percent cut would have worked out to be an average of nearly 8 hours less care per month for IHSS clients—and that is just not acceptable.
UDW immediately went to work at every level to make sure that cut didn’t happen. We conducted virtual lobby visits with legislators to let them know the real people who would be hurt by the cuts. We spoke at press conferences and did interviews with newspaper, TV and radio reporters. And when the legislature met to discuss the proposed cuts, even though we couldn’t flood the capitol like we’ve done in the past, we watched online and called in to make sure caregiver voices were heard.
Our efforts, and our solidarity as a union, paid off! The legislature rejected the proposed cut and came up with a new plan that didn’t rely on drastic cuts to services for seniors and people with disabilities. On June 29, Governor Newsom signed the no-7-percent-cut budget, ensuring that IHSS hours are safe during this economic downturn.
“Stopping this cut to IHSS hours was the result of UDW’s hard work and the dedication of our members to protecting their clients. It’s a huge victory for UDW caregivers,” said UDW Executive Director Doug Moore. “But we can never get comfortable when it comes to protecting the IHSS program; we need to keep our membership strong, united and vigilant to fight new threats when they come.”
UDW anticipates further threats to IHSS as the state deals with the economic fallout of COVID-19, and will keep you updated every step of the way as we fight to protect this vital program that so many of our loved ones rely on.