UDW caregivers started 2016 off with a bang. In fact, we made history.
On February 1st, for the first time ever, eligible IHSS providers began receiving pay for the hours of overtime we work – a right we fought hard to secure throughout 2015.
Throughout the year, we worked with the state to make sure overtime was a benefit for all providers. With our help, the state developed exemptions to the tough new IHSS overtime and workweek rules that helped prevent unfair disruptions in our clients’ care.
Social Security and unemployment benefits for ALL caregivers
In 2016, we also began our work to win unemployment, Social Security, and Medicare benefits for IHSS providers who care for their spouse or child – an issue that has affected many of us personally, including former IHSS provider Cathyleen Williams from Barstow.
“I was Caleb’s mother, but I was also his home care provider,” wrote Cathyleen in an op-ed in the San Diego Union-Tribune. “Caleb passed away and my job as his home care provider ended, I applied for — and was denied — unemployment.”
With Cathyleen’s and so many other stories to push us, we fought hard to get our sponsored bill, AB 1930, passed through both the Senate and the Assembly. The bill would have convened a committee to look into the financial impact exclusion from basic benefits like unemployment pay has on parent and spouse providers. Although AB 1930 was passed unanimously by the legislature, Governor Brown vetoed it in late September.
“I don’t think I will ever be able to truly put into words the pain of losing a child,” continued Cathyleen. “But I know I want to help lessen this pain for other parent and spouse home care providers who have to navigate the world without their loved one and no social safety net.”
Instead of looking at the veto of AB 1930 as a defeat, UDW caregivers can take solace in the fact that our elected leaders and the public heard us, as we can continue our work to win these benefits in 2017.
$15, paid sick days, and more
In April, we helped win one of the toughest battles facing working people today – the Fight for $15. Because of rallies, marches, lobby visits at the Capitol, demonstrations and more work alongside other low wage workers, our elected leaders agreed to a plan that will raise California’s minimum wage to $15 by 2022 and give IHSS providers paid sick days.
“This a huge victory for all working Californians, but especially IHSS providers,” said UDW President and our fellow home care worker Editha Adams. “We’ve been denied paid sick leave and a livable wage for far too long.”
We celebrated this amazing achievement, but we also used it as a stepping stone. We know the work of IHSS providers is worth far more than minimum wage, which is why UDW caregivers went All In for Care. At the state level in Orange, Riverside, and San Diego counties, and at the county level in other UDW counties, we will continue to demand respect, dignity, as well as fair pay and benefits for our work at the bargaining table.
Cuts to the IHSS program have a direct impact our caregivers and our clients. The 7% cut to our clients’ hours of care was restored for one year in 2015. In 2016, we also lobbied and successfully urged our elected leaders to restore our clients’ hours for another three years.
Your IHSS paycheck
As we all know, the current IHSS payroll system is far from reliable. Early this year, UDW caregivers decided that enough was enough. We’re tired of waiting for late paychecks and timesheets, and we’re tired of not knowing if and when we’ll be able to pay our bills.
In May, we testified at a joint Legislative Audit Committee hearing at the Capitol to ask the legislature to approve an audit of the IHSS payroll system. Claire Kaufman, an IHSS provider for her daughter Katie in El Dorado County, was one of the providers who told her story. “Last November, I submitted my IHSS timesheet for the first 15 days of the month and waited for my paycheck,” said Claire. “I waited days and then weeks, unable to get an answer about the delay.” Claire was finally paid just before Christmas in 2015, but her family had to sacrifice their holidays so that she could catch up on their bills.
The committee approved the audit, and we expect to receive the findings in early 2017. UDW will then use them to create legislation that will address and fix the problems with the payroll system.
We didn’t stop at the audit, though, and throughout the year we continued to urge the state to make improvements. Finally, in October, after a lot of pressure from UDW, the state announced it would offer an electronic timesheet option in 2017.
Election Day 2016
In addition to our UDW fights and victories, we elected a new president in 2016, and despite our feelings – good or bad – about the outcome, President-elect Trump will take office in January. The incoming president, his administration, and the Republican led Congress have all expressed opposition to programs on which IHSS providers, recipients, and working families rely.
The election sets the stage for some major fights in 2017:
House Speaker Paul Ryan has long threatened to cut Medicaid, which provides 55% of the funding for IHSS.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said repealing the ACA, which has made an estimated 75,000 UDW caregivers eligible for free or low-cost health coverage, would be “the first item up in the new year.”
The Freedom Foundation
And an anti-home care organization known as the Freedom Foundation has begun targeting UDW caregivers – making themselves a major threat in 2017. The Freedom Foundation tells IHSS providers to quit their union in order to save money. Unfortunately, they don’t tell the full story. As a union, we’ve fought and won big victories, not only this year (see a list of our many victories together here). No one provider could do alone what we do together. The Freedom Foundation wants to weaken strong unions like ours, in order to further their corporate billionaire-backed agenda.
Preparing for 2017
In 2017 we will continue to urge the state to fix the IHSS payroll system once and for all, and we will keep pushing for Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment pay for spouse and parent providers.
It will also be our time to prove that when UDW home care workers stand together, we can fight back against attempts to take our healthcare, weaken IHSS, or weaken us as a union by taking our voice and power. The stakes have never been higher, but we have protected home care and our clients time and time again – if we stand together, next year will be no different.
We look forward to fighting for home care with you in 2017. Happy New Year!
UDW caregivers and caregivers from SEIU 2015 were in Los Angeles yesterday to demand answers and action from the state. During a Senate Human Services oversight hearing at City Hall, we voiced our concerns and frustrations with the current outdated and cumbersome IHSS payroll system. Home care providers and recipients made the case for fixing the process once and for all.
“Inconsistency is the problem,” testified Claire Kaufman, an IHSS provider for her daughter in El Dorado County. “Not knowing how much I will be paid next time I send in a timesheet, or if I will be paid at all is the problem.”
This year, the State announced an electronic timesheet option would be offered in 2017. While this is a great step in the right direction, it was critical that we demand reforms to the paper timesheet process during the hearing.
Cynthia Wilson, an IHSS provider from Madera County, was evicted from her home in January because she didn’t receive a paycheck from October to December of last year. Cynthia and her 14-year-old grandson were forced to sleep in her car while she worked to afford and find a new apartment with an eviction on her record.
“I was finally able to save up enough to rent a house for me and my grandson,” said Cynthia during her testimony. “Things worked out this time, but I worry about the next time this happens. Many IHSS caregivers like me are just one late paycheck away from homelessness.”
Unfortunately, Cynthia’s story is not unique. Too many IHSS providers have felt the negative impact of waiting for a delayed paycheck or timesheet. Many of us know what it’s like to get behind on our bills or have to pay late fees, because our checks arrive days, weeks, or months later than expected.
Lizet Ibarra and her mother work as providers for Lizet’s younger sister in Orange County. Lizet attended the hearing to advocate for her mom who stayed home to care for her sister. “For the past year and a half my mom’s checks have been delayed 15 to 20 days,” said Lizet. “That puts my mom in a hardship with her HOA fees, late charge fees, and mortgage fees. In the past two months she has not received one check. This is what gets me more agitated.”
Senator Mike McGuire, Senator Connie Leyva, and Senator Richard Roth listened to our stories, and then questioned representatives from the Department of Social Services about the current payroll process. “Making sure people are paid for the work that they do is fundamental,” said Senator Leyva.
Senator McGuire was concerned about the amount of providers who deal with paycheck delays each month. “No private employer would be allowed to delay pay for employees,” he said. “The state can’t be delaying checks to 14,000 IHSS providers.”
Our union is committed to working with the State to update the payroll process. “The payroll system for IHSS providers is rife with problems and unacceptable in its current state,” said UDW Legislative Director Kristina Bas Hamilton. “We proposed a number of recommendations – some are sweeping in scope while others are simpler, common sense “fixes” – that we believe will go a long way to make the system more efficient.”
Among our suggestions were switching from semimonthly to biweekly pay periods, and allowing providers to download our timesheets to cut down on the time spent waiting for them to arrive via mail.
During her testimony, Claire Kaufman who has experienced late or incorrect paychecks three times in the last year, aptly summed up the importance of fixing the payroll system. “We work hard for our clients,” she said. “Like any other workers, we need timely and correct paychecks. Our families can’t afford anything less, and we don’t deserve anything less.”
“It makes you feel like a second-class citizen,” said Claire Kaufman, an IHSS provider for her daughter, Katie, who lives with autism in El Dorado County.
Claire was reacting to Governor Brown’s decision today to veto Assembly Bill 1930. Like nearly 86,000 other parent and spouse providers, Claire was hoping the governor would do the right thing and put providers on a path to securing Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment pay—basic safety net benefits that IHSS providers who care for their child or spouse are currently excluded from.
This year our union UDW sponsored AB 1930, and caregivers shared our stories with legislators at the Capitol, signed petitions, and called our elected leaders, urging them to stand with us on this vital issue. Our hard work paid off: the bill received unprecedented bipartisan support and was passed unanimously by both the State Assembly and the Senate. Once it got to the governor’s desk, we made one last push to get it passed when we delivered petitions signed by thousands of Californians urging the governor to sign the bill.
But today Governor Brown vetoed AB 1930 in spite of our efforts, leaving tens of thousands of spouse and parent caregivers worrying about whether we will ever be able to retire without the supplemental benefit of Social Security. And without unemployment pay, many of us will continue to wonder what would happen to our families if our client passes away.
These problems may sound far off or abstract to some, including the governor, but to home care providers, they are very real.
“Like many home care recipients, a lot of our family members are medically fragile,” said Claire. “I have a six-year-old daughter at home as well. If something happened to Katie, my youngest daughter and I would have to rely on public assistance because I don’t qualify for unemployment.”
Cathyleen Williams from San Bernardino County knows that nightmare firsthand. Her son Caleb passed away this year. When he passed, she not only lost her most precious loved one, but her entire income as well. Cathyleen applied for unemployment benefits because she’d worked as her son’s IHSS provider for nine years. She was shocked when she was denied, all because her IHSS client was her son.
Cathyleen shared her story when she joined UDW caregivers at the Capitol in Sacramento to deliver our petitions urging the governor to sign AB 1930. “No one should have to endure the death of their young child,” she said. “But to grieve while also scrambling to make sure your bills are paid and you don’t end up homeless? I wouldn’t wish this nightmare on my greatest enemy.”
And it is a nightmare. It’s also a source of frustration and confusion for home care providers who know our work is worthy of the same respect and benefits as all other work.
“I’m a single mom who works as a full-time caregiver,” said Jesse Torres from San Diego County. “I take my job seriously. I’ve completed trainings and received certifications to make sure I provide my daughter the best care she can get.”
Jesse’s 12-year-old daughter Cessia lives with Rett syndrome, which causes physical and mental disabilities. To manage Cessia’s condition, Jesse has worked as her full-time IHSS provider for 10 years. “Why am I not eligible for the same benefits as any other mother who goes to her job every day?” Jesse asked. “I could put my daughter in a medical facility or a nursing home that would cost the state more money, and the caregivers there would do the same work but they would get these benefits.”
Despite the governor’s decision today, UDW will continue to make winning Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment pay for spouse and parent providers a top priority. “All home care providers are workers who deserve dignity and respect,” said UDW Executive Director Doug Moore. “Spouse and parent home care providers have worked long enough without access to these basic benefits.”
UDW will keep you updated on our continued work to win Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment benefits for spouse and parent caregivers via our website – www.udwa.org – and our Facebook page – www.facebook.com/UDW.
UDW asked and you answered!
Hundreds of spouse and parent caregivers have responded to UDW’s survey on how ineligibility for Social Security, Medicare, and other benefits impacts our families. Currently home care workers who care for their spouse or child are unable to receive important retirement and social insurance program benefits. Due to state and federal laws, these providers are currently unable to make Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) and State Unemployment Insurance (SUI) contributions on their paychecks, which fund these benefits.
Of providers surveyed, approximately 75 percent of us care for our child, while 17 percent care for our spouse.
An overwhelming 92% of those surveyed are in favor of changing state and/or federal laws to allow parent and spouse providers to receive Social Security, Medicare and other benefits.
Nearly 91% of providers surveyed said this issue should be a high priority for UDW.
About 90% of surveyed providers want to fight for Social Security and Medicare knowing if we win, we would be required to contribute 7.65% of our wages to FICA.
And about 81% of providers who were surveyed want to fight for unemployment benefits knowing if we win, we would be required to contribute a small portion of our wages to the SUI program.
In addition, many of us expressed worry about what we will do as we age without the security that comes with Social Security and Medicare.
“I have no retirement plans as a parent provider. Not only do I have to worry about who will care for my daughter Katie when I am unable to care for her, but I will have to worry about how I will live as well.” -Claire Kaufman, an IHSS provider from El Dorado County
“We live month to month, because I don’t make much as my daughter Delaina’s full-time home care provider. And if something were to happen and I lost my job as her provider, I wouldn’t even qualify for unemployment. In the time it could take me to find a new job, we could lose our home, our car – everything.” -Christine Baur, an IHSS provider from Kern County
Our next steps
This year, we are sponsoring Assembly Bill 1930, which would establish an advisory committee to look at the impact that the denial of state unemployment insurance and federal Medicare and Social Security benefits has on IHSS spouse and parent providers. This will create awareness of the problem, and educate lawmakers and the public on this injustice.
On a federal level, we’re supporting the Social Security Caregiver Credit Act of 2016 in the United States Senate, and asking California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer to stand with us by cosponsoring the bill. The bill is a step toward winning Social Security and Medicare for parent and spouse home care workers throughout the country.
It’s not too late to share your thoughts and experiences with UDW. If you are a spouse or parent IHSS provider, click here to take the survey. And click here to tell Senator Feinstein and Senator Boxer to join us in our fight to win justice for home care.
Yesterday, UDW caregivers joined Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez at a Joint Legislative Audit Committee hearing at the Capitol to request an audit of the IHSS timesheet system. After hearing testimony and comments from providers and home care recipients, the committee voted unanimously (11 to 0) to begin an audit of the system to find out what’s wrong, so it can be fixed.
Far too many IHSS providers know what it’s like to wait days, weeks, or months for a late paycheck. We know what it’s like to set our household budget for the month, only to have it thrown off completely when our check doesn’t come on time or at all. Too many of us have been put in a financial bind, struggling to pay our rent and bills on time, because we weren’t paid timely.
The current IHSS timesheet system has been a sore spot for thousands of IHSS providers. The outdated and flawed system has negatively impacted caregivers, and even led to 65,000 missing timesheets in Los Angeles in 2015.
Yesterday, we stood together to proclaim: “Enough is enough!”
During the hearing, Assemblymember Gonzalez expressed the frustrations of thousands of IHSS caregivers. She likened providers dealing with late paychecks or no paychecks at all to wage theft. She urged committee members to treat IHSS providers with the same dignity and respect as other workers by approving the audit, so we can fix the system and ensure providers are paid timely and correctly.
UDW caregiver Claire Kaufman from El Dorado County testified before the committee of State Senators and Assemblymembers. “Last November, I submitted my IHSS timesheet for the first 15 days of the month and waited for my paycheck,” said Claire. “I waited days and then weeks, unable to get an answer about the delay.”
When Claire finally spoke to someone about her late paycheck, she was told the system that reads our timesheets was unable to decipher a ‘6’ on her timesheet. Like many of us have done in the past, Claire had to request a duplicate timesheet, resubmit the duplicate, and then wait on her check. By the time Claire was finally paid, it was almost Christmas.
“Once I caught up on my bills, there wasn’t much left over to make it a merry Christmas for my daughters,” Claire said. “If my union hadn’t given my family a basket of food, we wouldn’t have even had Christmas dinner.”
Gregory Barney, an IHSS provider from Merced County echoed Claire’s frustrations. When he stood up to give public comment he told the committee about a paycheck he has yet to receive from last year. He explained that he wanted to speak up during the hearing, because late paychecks were too frequent a problem for too many providers. “I’m retired military,” said Gregory. “I understand there will be hiccups sometimes. I let it go last year, but then it happened again.”
Crystal Mourad is an IHSS care recipient in Butte County. She has four IHSS providers she relies on to keep her healthy and safe in her home. She attended the hearing to speak on their behalf, and on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of seniors and people with disabilities who rely on IHSS caregivers.
Crystal explained that she has a provider who is still awaiting a check that should have arrived in January. “When my caregivers don’t get paid, I lose my caregivers,” said Crystal explaining that it is tough for IHSS providers to work without a reliable paycheck. “I depend on my caregivers,” she continued. “They’re not a luxury. They’re a necessity.”
The committee was visibly upset to hear that IHSS providers have to deal with delayed paychecks, putting our ability to provide for our families’ at risk and putting the care of recipients like Crystal in jeopardy. Their visible frustration led to a unanimous vote of approval of the audit of the IHSS timesheet system.
Now, the state auditors have seven months to complete the audit and report back with their findings.