It’s Labor Day weekend. For many Americans that means a three-day weekend to eat barbecue and enjoy the last days of summer with loved ones, but Labor Day represents a lot more. As we go All In for Care at the bargaining table to win better pay and benefits for caregivers, we should keep in mind the history of the holiday.
Labor Day was created by union members in the late 1800s to recognize the contributions workers have made to building our country, and making it prosperous. Home care workers and other domestic workers have cared for our nation’s seniors and people with disabilities for decades, even centuries. Our work keeps this country moving forward by ensuring that those who need it have access to the quality care they deserve. The care we provide allows people to age with dignity, and allows individuals with disabilities to receive care at home rather than institutions.
It’s important to recognize the achievements and value of workers, but to also remember that some workers, including home care providers remain undervalued and underappreciated. Labor Day became a national holiday in 1896, but IHSS providers still work without paid holidays. And until last year, we’d endured decades of exclusion from the Fair Labor Standards Act, which gave most workers overtime pay benefits almost 80 years ago.
UDW caregiver William Reed from Placer County provides care for his adult son who lives with autism. William recently spoke out about the need to treat IHSS providers with the same respect as other workers. “Our work is real work,” he said. “It’s time to make a change, and start treating the work of all home care providers with dignity and respect.”
It’s true, and UDW caregivers have had to fight for many of the same basic rights most workers enjoy automatically. Whether it’s securing overtime, stopping cuts to the IHSS program, or helping raise the state’s minimum wage; we have proved that when we fight together, we can win!
Marcus Haynes is an IHSS provider in Riverside County. He provides care for his uncle who lives with schizophrenia. Marcus is also a member of the bargaining team that includes other UDW members from Riverside, as well as San Diego and Orange counties. Providers in those counties are currently in contract negotiations with the state in an effort to win better pay and benefits for IHSS providers in all three counties. “Some of us do the same work as nurses, but we don’t make a living wage,” said Marcus. “Bargaining together gives us all a voice in the process to improve our wages.”
Marcus and the bargaining team are fighting for an immediate raise, improved health care, paid sick leave, and vacation time. However, the state continues to devalue our work. The state’s contract proposal includes keeping providers at minimum wage with no raise, and no improvements to our benefits.
We will continue to fight, because we are All In for Care! Whether you are bargaining with the state, or
your county’s public authority, we must all continue to unite together to win more for our families. Darlene Nelson who works as an IHSS provider for her two adult daughters recently spoke out about not settling for low wages and poor benefits at a rally in San Diego. “Our work and our clients’ care is worth far more than the minimum,” she said. “I’m all in for care!”
This Labor Day weekend and beyond, if you are All In for Care, call 1-866-584-5792, and tell your lawmaker to support pay and benefit increases for IHSS providers.
“Why should we be left out?”
That’s the question San Diego caregiver Nicanora Montenegro asked the crowd of IHSS providers who gathered at the office of the city treasurer on Thursday morning. Nicanora works as her 47-year-old sister’s caregiver, and she is one of the estimated 10,000 IHSS providers in the city of San Diego who were left out when the city raised its minimum wage from $10 to $10.50 an hour.
“They raised the wage to $10.50 and we’re left at $10 only – What do you call that? Wage theft,” Nicanora continued.
Wage theft, or denying a worker wages to which they are entitled, has been going on in San Diego since July when the city’s first minimum wage increase went into effect. This came after voters in the city, including many IHSS providers, elected to raise the city’s minimum wage by passing Proposition I in June. Although we were not left out of the proposition, San Diego caregivers were left out of the actual wage increase, because of an unfair decision by the state of California. Rather than enforcing the decision made by San Diego voters, the state decided to continue to pay providers just $10 an hour – $.50 less than the new minimum wage.
“Every other worker working in the city is being paid $10.50 per hour, it makes no sense that the state is refusing to pay us this wage too,” said Theresa Blackwell, an IHSS provider for an elderly woman in her community. “I’m here today fighting for a better way of living, so I won’t have to struggle and live paycheck to paycheck.”
Theresa was among the providers who rallied at the city treasurer’s office. After the rally, Theresa and four other members of the San Diego bargaining team went into the office to file official wage theft complaints with the city against the state. We urged the city to take action on our behalf, and demand the state enforce our local laws.
“Why would people in Sacramento, who definitely make at least minimum wage, decide to pay us less when we need it just as much as every other San Diegan?” Darlene Nelson, a provider for her two adult daughters who live with developmental disabilities asked the crowd. “We shouldn’t have to fight for minimum wage. It is a basic right, and to deny it to us is wage theft.”
Although we gathered to protest and fight for our right to at least the minimum wage, IHSS providers and providers around the state know we need and deserve a lot more than minimum wage. Darlene urged us to be All in for Care, which means we will work hard at the bargaining table with the state in Orange, San Diego, and Riverside, and with counties around the state to win better wages and benefits, and a better quality of life for our families.
“We’re making $10 an hour right now and it’s not enough,” said IHSS provider and San Diego District Chair Brooks Ashby. “That’s why UDW is fighting for $13 to $15 an hour at the bargaining table… We need better pay to meet our needs and the needs of our clients.”
In San Diego, we will continue to fight back against the state’s claims that they don’t have to pay us fairly, but we won’t stop there. As Darlene said, “fellow caregivers, we shouldn’t be making minimum wage… but tomorrow and beyond, we will fight for far more together!”
For Immediate Release
Thursday, August 18, 2016
Contact: Margitte Kristjansson, 619-548-4304
An estimated 10,000 home care workers in San Diego are now making less than minimum wage.
San Diego – Today local In-Home Supportive Services program (IHSS) home care workers, members of the United Domestic Workers/AFSCME Local 3930 (UDW), rallied in front of the City Treasurer’s office to shed light on the wage theft being committed in San Diego. IHSS home care workers provide in-home care for seniors and people with disabilities, saving the state money by allowing people to remain in their homes instead of costly institutions.
Proposition I, which was passed by San Diego voters in June, increased the city’s minimum wage from $10 to $10.50 per hour. But IHSS home care providers were denied the minimum wage increase through a decision by the state of California.
“When I saw my first IHSS check after the increase to $10.50 an hour went into effect in July, I was shocked and upset,” Darlene Nelson, a UDW member and an IHSS home care provider for her two adult daughters who live with developmental disabilities, told the crowd. “When I learned IHSS providers had been left out of the increase because of an unfair decision by the state, I felt like my work was not being valued.”
The state’s response to inquiries of why it is denying home care providers the local minimum wage has been that it cannot be compelled to follow our local laws. “Why should we be left out?” Nicanora Montenegro, an IHSS provider for her 47-year-old sister who lives with intellectual disabilities, asked the crowd. “We are all San Diegans. We live in San Diego…They raised the wage to $10.50 and we’re left at $10 only – What do you call that? Wage theft!”
After the rally five IHSS home care workers marched into the city treasurer’s office to submit formal letters of complaint against the state. They called on the city to hold the state accountable for its wage theft, and to demand they enforce our laws and pay workers fairly.
United Domestic Workers of America (UDW)/AFSCME Local 3930 is a home care union made up of nearly 94,000 in-home caregivers across the state of California. UDW caregivers provide care through the state’s In-Home Supportive Services program (IHSS), which allows over half a million California seniors and people with disabilities to stay safe and healthy at home.