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.
My husband David’s meningitis caused paralysis on the left side of his body and several neurological problems. For a while I was able to continue working my full-time job, and pay into important programs like Social Security and Medicare. But as David’s condition worsened, I had to start reevaluating what was best for our family. David became reliant on a wheelchair seven years ago, and that’s when I knew it was time to change jobs. I left my old job, and became my husband’s full-time home care provider.
When I found out that I was no longer able to pay into Social Security and Medicare, I became really stressed. I hope I worked enough years in other jobs to qualify for some Social Security, but I’m not sure.
I don’t understand how I can work full time, but be denied basic benefits. I can’t and shouldn’t have to leave my current job as my husband’s home care provider just to become eligible for programs other workers qualify for automatically.
Reyna Tellez is an IHSS provider for her husband David in Imperial County. Read more about our fight to win Social Security and Medicare for spouse and parent providers here.
When my daughter Delaina was in second grade, an undiagnosed tumor in her brain hemorrhaged and left her with brain damage. Now, Delaina is 22 years old, and I work as her home care provider. She can understand me, but has behavior issues. Delaina can do basic math and write her name, but it’s hard for her to learn more. She’s also lost her ability to walk or feed herself.
We live month to month, because I don’t make much as Delaina’s full-time home care provider. And if something were to happen to IHSS 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, I could lose my home, my car – everything.
I’m 45 now, but I’m concerned about what will happen to me when I get older. Being told I’m not eligible to pay into FICA makes me feel like the quality in-home care I provide isn’t considered real work.
Christine Baur is an IHSS provider for her daughter Delaina in Kern County. Read more about our fight to win Social Security and Medicare for spouse and parent providers here.
Update: On June 27, 2016, Governor Brown signed the state budget into law. The restoration of the 7% cut to IHSS recipients’ hours of care has been extended three more years, and SSI/SSP grants will receive a one-time 2.76% increase effective January 1, 2017. Click here to read more.
Yesterday, the state legislature passed the 2016-17 budget, which fully funds IHSS, and also increases SSI/SSP, a state and federally funded program on which many home care recipients rely. Our victories are a direct result of UDW members’ fight to protect home care for seniors and people with disabilities.
What’s in the budget?
A major priority for all UDW caregivers is protecting the IHSS program, because it is vital to the independence, safety, and health of our clients and loved ones.
Last year, we successfully ended a 7% cut to IHSS hours. But that was not enough.
In 2016, UDW caregivers from around the state headed to the Capitol on multiple occasions to demand the restoration of our clients’ hours of care beyond just one year.
Our leaders heard us. The legislature allocated money in the budget to fully fund IHSS for the next three years. This means our home care clients will continue to receive all of the hours they have been assessed.
“This is huge not only for me as a provider, but for my clients as well,” said Christine Petraeus, an IHSS provider from San Luis Obispo County. “I have a 95-year-old client who broke her hip a couple of months ago. With her increased limitations, she can’t afford to lose any of her IHSS hours.”
Also in the budget: more money for seniors and people with disabilities who live on the fixed income they receive from SSI/SSP grants. As many as 1.5 million of these Californians have suffered because of cuts to their grants enacted six years ago, and struggle to pay their rent or purchase basic necessities like food and toiletries.
In the budget passed by the legislature, SSI/SSP grants will receive a one-time 2.76% increase effective January 1, 2017.
The budget now heads to Governor Brown’s desk where it must be signed by June 30th.
UDW caregivers will continue to push for policies and funding that puts the dignity of home care providers and recipients first.
Rather than remaining content with a one-time increase, we support Assembly Bill 1584, which reinstates SSI/SSP cost-of-living adjustments and raises grant amounts to 100% of the 2017 federal poverty level. These changes go much further to lift seniors and people with disabilities out of poverty.
We also believe that overtime pay should be a great benefit for all providers, and should not negatively impact any clients and providers. That’s why UDW has been advocating for four fixes to overtime implementation.
Unfortunately, the legislature did not take action on these items, but UDW will continue to urge the governor’s administration to enact the four fixes, which include protecting providers from inaccurate violations and ensuring that all providers and clients have access to exemptions if they need them.
My husband Leon is 69 years old and lives with COPD and cirrhosis of the liver. My full-time job since 2000 has been providing him with in-home care, so he can remain in our home where he is happiest and healthiest. I’ve been a home care provider for 16 years, and for 16 years I’ve worried about what would happen if an unexpected tragedy struck my family. One of my biggest fears is my husband passing away. I would be grief stricken, and because I don’t qualify for unemployment, I would also have no financial safety net while I searched for another job.
As I approach my 60s, I’m not able to prepare to retire in the next few years like most people. Instead, I’m constantly worried. I’m worried about how we’re going to live if I’m ever unable to care for Leon. Without the safety net of Social Security, I would no longer be able to contribute to our household expenses. Spouse and parent providers aren’t asking for extra. We just want our work to be treated fairly and with the same dignity and respect other workers receive.
Bernadette Evans is an IHSS provider for her husband Leon in Riverside County. Read more about our fight to win Social Security and Medicare for spouse and parent providers here.
After decades of exclusion from Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA) protections, home care providers won overtime pay for the first time in history last year. And on February 1st, FLSA benefits began for eligible IHSS providers. Now, many of us are eligible to receive overtime, travel time, and medical wait time pay – great benefits for caregivers and our families. UDW caregivers fought hard to secure these new benefits, and now we’re working to make sure they are implemented fairly.
Throughout the year, UDW members have lobbied and testified to lawmakers at the Capitol about the new program rules, and urged them to ensure they are helpful rather than harmful to providers and our clients. “We fought long and hard for overtime,” UDW member Nelson Retuya from Placer County told lawmakers. “Let’s make sure it works for home care workers and recipients.”
Our goal this year is to urge lawmakers to employ several changes to the new IHSS program rules. The changes will ensure that caregivers are treated fairly, and our home care clients receive care without harmful interruptions.
We’ve asked the legislature to adopt four actions in the Governor’s 2016-17 budget for IHSS:
IHSS program violations are consequences for submitting your IHSS timesheet with hours that exceed overtime or travel time limits. The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) originally announced violations would begin on May 1st. Providers who receive multiple violations risk being terminated from working for the IHSS program. UDW has asked lawmakers to extend the start date to September 1st to give the state time to thoroughly implement all necessary policy changes, and to give providers and clients time to fully understand the new rules, so we can avoid receiving violations.
CDSS should notify eligible IHSS providers about exemptions for which we qualify, and create an appeals process for providers who believe they were incorrectly denied an exemption. Exemptions are important because they ensure that high-need clients or clients with special circumstances can continue to receive all the hours of care they rely on from their home care providers. Read more about exemptions here: http://www.udwa.org/2016/04/exemptions-to-timesheet-weekly-work-limits.
Right now, counties have a five-day review process before they issue an IHSS provider a violation. Counties should have no less than 10 days to review potential violations in order to cut down on the number of providers who receive invalid violations. Remember, violations include penalties that increase in severity all the way up to a one-year termination from the program. This means it is imperative that providers do not receive violations for no reason.
Right now, workweek limits are determined by the number of IHSS clients a provider has, which means providers have different caps on our workweek hours. In order to reduce confusion, UDW caregivers have asked for a 70 hour and 45 minute workweek limit for all providers (with the exception of providers who have received an exemption allowing them to work up to 90 hours per week).
UDW will keep members updated on our work to improve the implementation of our new benefits as the state budget process continues.
Remember, we can familiarize ourselves with the current overtime, travel time, and medical wait time rules by visiting www.udwa.org/timesheets.
May is Older Americans Month, and at 73-years-old, my mother is part of one of this country’s greatest—and largest—generations. In his Older Americans Month proclamation this year, President Obama reminded us that “within the next 13 years, more than one in five Americans will be of retirement age, and our nation must make it a priority to ensure they are able to retire and live with dignity and respect.”
More and more ‘Baby Boomers’ are retiring every day. And as they live longer, many will choose to age in their homes with the assistance of in-home caregivers like us. In fact, it’s estimated that 70 percent of older Americans will need long-term care during their lifetime, and the United States will need about 2.5 million additional home care providers to keep up with this need.
My family’s home care journey began in 2007 when I became the IHSS provider for my son Marshall, who lives with autism. IHSS allows me to work and focus on my son’s care. The IHSS program acknowledges that providing care for a relative or a non-family client is hard work, and should be treated as such. In the years that I’ve worked as my son’s provider, I’ve gained so much experience and learned a lot about providing quality care.
When my mother Irene was diagnosed with dementia in 2012, I was devastated. But because of my experience as my son’s home care provider, I felt prepared. I knew immediately that I needed to enroll her in IHSS, and because I wanted my mom to feel the same support she’s always given me, I became her caregiver as well.
For me, caring for my mom is an honor and a privilege. I can finally give back to her some of the care and support that she’s given me and my nine siblings our whole lives. The recipes she’d make for us as children are the same recipes I cook for her now.
But I don’t just cook and clean for my mother—as her IHSS provider I am able to ensure that she remains safe and healthy in our home.
For my mom, IHSS means independence: she is able to make decisions about her life and her care, she socializes with our loved ones, and she has the peace of mind that I will always be there to help her when she needs me. It is truly a blessing to provide her with care and help her age with dignity and grace.
I feel that we should respect older Americans for the experience they have and the sacrifices they’ve made for us. We should ask them questions, listen, and receive their sage advice and life lessons. We should cherish the moments we have with them while they’re here with us and we are here with them. And we should care for and protect them as best we can, which is what IHSS providers do every day.
This month and in the years and decades to come, we should heed the President Obama’s words: “one of the best measures of a country is how it treats its older citizens. During Older Americans Month, let us pay tribute to the men and women who raised, guided, and inspired us, and let us honor their enduring contributions to our society by safeguarding their rights and the opportunities they deserve.”
Percie Slate is an IHSS provider for her mother Irene and son Marshall in San Diego County.