Magdalena Castillo cares for her 38-year-old daughter, Leticia, through the IHSS program. Leticia is the oldest of three siblings and lives with Seckel syndrome, a rare genetic condition that slows growth before and after birth, causing dwarfism, intellectual disability and, in her case, limited mobility. As a result, Leticia requires round-the-clock care.
Originally, Magdalena and her children lived in San Jose, where she worked as a clerk for the county. Magdalena’s three children attended a local daycare with help from subsidy programs. When they moved to Los Baños, Leticia attended a day program while her mother worked, and her brothers were in school. But when Leticia could no longer attend the day program, Magdalena knew something had to change.
Then, 17 years ago, she heard about IHSS.
At first it seemed too good to be true, but once she learned more, she decided to give it a try. Leticia deserved an active and engaged life, and Magdalena knew she could provide her with those opportunities—and now she could do just that, while still supporting her family.
Magdalena joined the union right away because she knew it was invaluable to have a strong union supporting her and her fellow workers.
Low IHSS wages certainly made it difficult for her as a single mother of three, but she made it work. Her boys eventually grew up and joined the military, leaving Magdalena and Leticia alone in their home and making things a little easier financially.. Although living on a fixed income is challenging, Magdalena is grateful for the IHSS program.
“I have the luxury of being with my daughter,” she said. “She’s getting older and there are so many more health issues that are coming about, but I’m so glad I’m able to take care of all her needs and advocate for her medical care.”
Together, Magdalena and Leticia spend hours crafting, gardening, playing with their dogs, and finding bargains at their local stores. More recently, Magdalena and Leticia volunteered at a UDW food distribution event in Merced.
“It was our first-time volunteering together and I was so proud and thankful to be able to share that experience with her,” said Magdalena.
Next, they’re looking forward to fighting for higher wages, sick pay, retirement, and vacation time. They are also excited to meet other UDW members and continue strengthening their bonds with their fellow union siblings:
“They’re not just my union people, they are there for me to have confidence and be able to talk to for support.”
“Our experience in Montgomery was a clear reminder that we have come so far in our fight for our rights, but we have so much further to go,” said UDW Secretary-Treasurer, William Reed.
On March 10, UDW members gathered in Montgomery, Alabama to walk an 11-mile leg of a 50-mile march in honor of the 57th anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery march, originally led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and thousands of non-violent demonstrators fighting for voting rights.
But first, we had a lot to learn.
To kick-off our trip, we trekked through rain and cold winds to visit some of Montgomery’s most historic sites and pay our respects to the incredible leadership and sacrifice that occurred throughout the city during the Civil Rights Movement. During our time in Montgomery, we took the time to make connections across centuries and learn not only about this country’s history, but about the roots of domestic labor, its ties to slavery and people of color, and why it continues to be undervalued today.
On our first day in the city, we participated in a walking tour that highlighted the history of the transatlantic slave trade, its transition into domestic slave trade, and Alabama’s role in its growth. We visited the Riverfront which was largely responsible for the growth of the domestic slave trade because of the newer means of transportation available, such as steamboats and the nearby railroad. We also walked down Commerce Street and visited locations that served as slave depots and the auction blocks where hundreds of thousands of enslaved people were sold along with land and livestock.
“I felt profound sadness to know how Black people were oppressed and that white people took joy out of doing such horrible things,” said District 7 Vice Chair Maria Isabel Serrano. “It hurt to see generations upon generations of pain, because I know that hearts don’t ever fully heal from such things.”
We began the civil rights portion of our tour at the bus stop where Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white man, sparking the 1956 Montgomery Bus Boycott, a major catalyst for the Civil Rights Movement. As we stood at the Rosa Parks statue, we learned that Black domestic workers made up the bulk of bus riders and were essentially the backbone of the boycott. Without the support, defiance, and dedication of our fellow domestic workers, the Montgomery Bus Boycott would have failed.
The tour continued through Dexter Avenue Baptist Church and the parish where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his family lived while he was the church’s pastor. Established in 1877 by freedmen and free people of color, the church served as a meeting place for civil rights organizers while planning the Montgomery Bus Boycott.
We concluded our historical walking tour at the Civil Rights Memorial, a memorial to 41 individuals who were killed by white supremacists between 1955-1968. At the center of the memorial stood a flattop fountain with the names, dates of death and manner of death engraved on it. We stood over the circular fountain and read every name, date, and manner of death, and reflected on the unnecessary violence Black folks endured while fighting for their humanity.
The next day, we visited three museums: the Legacy Museum, the National Memorial for Peace and Justice, and the Freedom Riders Museum.
The Legacy Museum provided a comprehensive history of our country from the transatlantic slave trade to the emergence of over-incarceration in the 20th century. Founded by Bryan Stevenson, the museum was built with the intention to help people understand the pain, the suffering, and the truth behind our country’s history: We interacted with holographic projections of enslaved children, saw jars filled with dirt from hundreds of locations where lynchings took place across the U.S., and listened to recorded interviews with Black people unjustly put behind bars.
We then headed to a memorial to the more than 4,400 Black people who were lynched in America between 1877 and 1950, the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. While there, we read the stories behind some of the lynchings, including one of a domestic worker named Eliza Woods who was falsely accused of poisoning her employer’s wife. Although her employer later confessed to killing his wife, Eliza was dragged from her cell by local townspeople and lynched. The museum also paid tribute to the Black domestic workers who made the Montgomery Bus Boycott possible, with three statues in their honor.
The last museum we visited was the Freedom Riders, which recounted the stories of more than 400 riders, both Black and white, who risked their lives to travel to the deep South and violate Jim Crow laws in order to challenge a segregated interstate travel system. At the museum we saw various editions of “The Green Book,” a travel guide that enabled Black travelers to find lodgings, businesses, restaurants, and stores that would serve them, and read various stories detailing the rider’s journeys and the extreme violence they faced.
The two days of educational and historical background fired us up for one of the trip’s highlights—commemorating the 57th anniversary of the Selma-to-Montgomery March. We led the fourth leg of the march in support of voting rights alongside various unions, including the AFL-CIO and AFSCME, and hundreds of supporters from around the country. The march was a total of 50 miles through a span of 5 days from Selma to the steps of Alabama’s State Capitol in Montgomery. Each leg of the march was led by community organizations, including the National Action Network, Black Voters Matter, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and Women’s Roundtable.
A few of us, including UDW Vice President Astrid Zuniga, completed all 11 miles of the march that day.
“I wanted to march as much as I could because it was my way of honoring the lives and the struggles of the original foot soldiers, even though I know that this is only a sliver of what they experienced in the 60s,” Astrid said. “The blisters and tiredness are only a small portion of the pain and hardships civil rights leaders and people of color experienced during that time.”
The march concluded on Friday, March 18, as we walked the last steps alongside our fellow unions and marchers and gathered on the steps of the Alabama State Capitol in Montgomery for a special rally. The speakers, including UDW Executive Director Doug Moore, spoke out against voter suppression and the road that awaits us in our fights for civil rights and equity for all.
“The work of ensuring the right to vote is far from over,” said Doug. “We are battling the voices of hate that want to disenfranchise voters of color. Our people were harassed and beaten for fighting for the right to vote and they are not about to take it away from us now. When we vote, we vote for equity. We vote for justice. We vote for the people—all people.”
The days we spent together in Montgomery were heavy with grief and reflection.
“Our experience in Montgomery was a clear reminder that we have come so far in our fight for our rights, but we have so much further to go,” said UDW Secretary-Treasurer William Reed. “The pain that comes from remembering what it was like to see my own family members lynched or being rejected from eating at certain establishments still remains, but it’s really nice to see that the torch for change is being carried on.”
Through our time in Alabama, we were reminded that our work as care providers is the backbone of this country’s economy and that we have the power to create change. Our voices are louder, stronger, and more impactful when we come together and speak up for our rights. We are important; our work is invaluable; and the roots of our power and passion for change are deep, strong, and still expanding. Our foundation is strong and so is our will for change.
Union membership is powerful! The work we have done together to lift up caregiving over the past year made legislators recognize how valuable our work is to the community. Now, thanks to all of us raising our voices, they are finally recognizing us with more than kind words—they are rewarding us with bonus pay for our dedication.
How did this happen? Caregivers and our advocates made sure the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) included funding to give IHSS providers Heroes Pay: a one-time payment of $500 to any IHSS provider who worked a minimum of two months between March 2020 and March 2021. The state has started disbursing the funds, which they are calling “Care Economy Payments,” and payouts should be completed by Jan. 28, 2022. If you believe you are eligible and do not receive your payment by mid-February, please let us know!
“UDW fought hard for this recognition of our members,” said UDW Executive Director Doug Moore. “IHSS caregivers provide invaluable care to vulnerable and at-risk Californians daily and this one-time payment is the least that the state can do to support our efforts through this pandemic. This shows just how far we have come and what we can do with a powerful and strong union.”
IHSS providers and other home caregivers are an important part of our country’s infrastructure. Heroes Pay is only a small step toward having our leaders respect what we do and reward it as the essential work that it is. Through our union, we will continue to fight for what is right and keep working for a better tomorrow for all. Together, we can make sure caregiving heroes get what we deserve every day.
UDW members elected by their peers to be delegates gathered in San Diego on June 7-9 for our 16th Constitutional Convention. Under a slogan that reflects the work we do and what it takes to do it— “Caregiver Strong”—we set a course for UDW’s future that focuses on protecting IHSS, raising the pay and status of caregivers, and standing up for the values we share as working people.
UDW bylaws call for conventions to be held every three years. At convention, we bring our experiences and our wisdom to the table to report on what we’ve accomplished so far and prepare for the challenges that lay ahead of us.
UDW President Editha Adams shared some of our successes and challenges during her President’s report, including: demanding and getting an audit of the IHSS payroll system, winning the option to use online timesheets, overtime pay and restoration of the seven percent cut to IHSS made during the budget crisis. She also talked about the issues we continue to fight: Federal interference in our program from Medicaid cuts and Electronic Visit Verification (EVV) and our most important issue UDW has and will never stop fighting for: raising caregiver pay.
“As I look back on the last three years, I am both proud of what we’ve done and excited for what we can yet accomplish,” said Adams.
When he addressed the convention, UDW Executive Director Doug Moore urged delegates to look to the bigger issues of social justice if we want to truly better life for ourselves and our families.
“As a union, we have always fought for more than just wages and benefits to better our members’ lives,” said Moore. “We know that helping ourselves, our clients and our families means helping our communities and the people in them. UDW is shaping the future by investing in people, always looking for ways we can lift each other up where others try to keep us down.”
Several special guests joined us to show their support for the work that UDW caregivers do. Assemblymember Shirley Weber, AFSCME International President Lee Saunders, President Pro Tem of the California State Senate Toni Atkins and Executive Director of the Solidarity Center Shawna Bader-Blau all addressed our delegates, offering support and perspective for the work caregivers do at home and in their communities. All speakers expressed gratitude and respect for the work that caregivers do.
“I see compassionate people making it possible for the sick and elderly to live in their own homes with comfort and dignity,” said Bader-Blau as she looked around the room.
For UDW member and convention delegate Maria Vega from Orange County, the convention was a valuable learning opportunity. “You learn more, you get to ask questions—everyone’s so helpful!” she said. Vega, who cares for her mother, said she learned about how the union works and is governed, but also about using new technology tools like the UDW App that help her everyday as a caregiver. And, of course, she learned to stay motivated to protect IHSS and our clients. “You keep fighting,” she said, “and you never give up.”
At convention we also passed several resolutions to help guide our future work (see full list below), and made changes to our constitution.
“I felt so privileged to be able to attend,” said UDW caregiver Denise Justice of Santa Barbara County. “Seeing resolutions being passed was very cool and exciting – it gave me the extra push to get out there and be active. The solidarity and comradery of my brothers and sisters at convention was amazing.”
After two days of hard work, we wrapped up convention with a Saturday night gala. Caregivers, who rarely get a night out, put on our dancing shoes and celebrated all that we accomplished together.
See pictures from the 2018 UDW Convention here.
2018 Convention Resolutions
Over 6,000 IHSS home care providers in Butte County have gone without a new contract for five years—but we’ve gone even longer without respect. The Butte County Board of Supervisors has been dragging its heels on addressing the needs of IHSS providers, refusing to come through with a needed pay raise for those of us who care for Butte County’s low-income seniors and people with disabilities.
Some of the county supervisors have even taken the insulting position that, since many providers are family members of our clients, we should feel lucky we are getting paid at all.
“I don’t think they understand that this is not a babysitting job,” said Kesha Haynie, an in-home care provider who lives in Magalia. “We are working all the time.”
All of the hard work that providers like Kesha do saves Butte County money – and allows our most vulnerable residents to avoid institutional care, which can cost as much as five times more than care provided through IHSS.
Butte County needs to face that fact that, like the rest of California and the nation, we are on the verge of a long-term care crisis. As our population ages the need for long-term care will skyrocket, and counties need to retain the care workers they have while making the job more attractive to prospective caregivers. According to a new report by the UC Berkeley Labor Center, the only way to do that is to raise caregiver wages.
Yet Butte County wants to keep caregivers at minimum wage, which is not enough to live on. Fifty-six percent of Butte County’s home care providers receive some sort of public assistance. Many of us, like Kesha, work multiple jobs.
“I have to work two other jobs to make ends meet,” she said. “If we got paid enough, caregivers wouldn’t have to work outside of caregiving.”
Not only would supporting Butte County caregivers with a pay raise make fiscal sense because it would limit nursing care and public assistance payments, but more money in caregivers’ pockets means more money in the Butte County economy. It’s estimated that an investment of just $1 per hour in IHSS provider wages in Butte county would generate over five million dollars in increased economic activity in our communities. And, because IHSS program costs are covered by state and federal funds and there is a state funding source to reimburse the county’s share of cost, there’s no good excuse not to give us the pay raise we so desperately need.
There was one raise, however, that the Butte County Board of Supervisors had no problem approving: Their own. They approved a 1.36 percent raise for themselves in February of this year.
“I think a good salary is important to bring people in from all walks of life,” Supervisor Steve Lambert said at the time.
UDW members in Butte County agree! Good pay is the only way to ensure a good work force of caregivers.
Join us on Tuesday, November 14 at 9 a.m. outside the County Board of Supervisors office, 25 County Center Drive, Suite 205, Oroville, CA 95965, as we rally to demand better for Butte County’s caregivers and the seniors and disabilities we care for. Call 530-894-2702 to learn more and RSVP. We will show them that caregivers in Butte County won’t be ignored anymore.
November is Provider Appreciation Month, and this year UDW is thanking caregivers for everything we do. UDW caregivers are not only home care providers for our clients, but we’re strong advocates for seniors, people with disabilities, and our families.
Our work is high stress, but it’s also high reward. We are professional home care workers who spend our days looking after the health and safety of our clients. We are there day after day with quality in-home care to make sure they are happy and able to remain in their homes.
But UDW caregivers go above and beyond. Not only do we care for our clients, but we work together and win victories that have a positive impact on their lives. And we don’t just advocate for home care recipients, we stand up for our fellow IHSS providers and our families as well.
Last year, we helped secure overtime pay for IHSS providers, and this year thousands of us have benefited from that hard fought battle. In 2016, we also worked together and won an extended restoration of our IHSS clients’ hours of care – ending the harmful 7% cut for three more years. In April, we helped win a path to a $15 an hour minimum wage and paid sick days for IHSS providers. And we started our work to help providers who care for their child or spouse win Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment pay – basic benefits these family caregivers are currently denied. We’ve proved time and time again that UDW caregivers are stronger together. (Read more about our victories here.)
We’ve faced home care threats, but united we’ve come out stronger than ever. That’s why this month, UDW doesn’t just want to thank caregivers for the work we do as home care providers – but also the work we do to protect and strengthen the home care program.
Check out a Provider Appreciation Month event in your area. And once again, thank you, Caregivers!
Riverside County – November 3rd – 10am to 3pm – RSVP: 866-417-7300
El Dorado County – November 3rd – 6pm to 8pm – RSVP: 888-228-0837
Butte County – November 4th – 12pm to 2pm – RSVP: 530-894-2702
Santa Barbara & San Luis Obispo Counties – November 5th – 12pm to 3pm – RSVP: 877-369-6505
Stanislaus County – November 10th – 11am to 2pm –RSVP: 866-307-7271
Nevada County – November 10th – 6pm to 8pm – RSVP: 888-228-0837
Kern County – November 12th – 12pm to 3pm – RSVP: 800-851-7272
San Diego County – November 15th – 3pm to 7pm – RSVP: 800-621-5016
Madera County – November 15th – 11am to 2pm – RSVP: 559-395-4772
Merced County – November 17th – 11am to 2pm – RSVP: 866-255-7313
Sutter County – November 17th – 6pm to 8pm – RSVP: 888-228-0837
Imperial County – November 17th – 3:30pm to 7:30pm – RSVP: 760-425-4034
Orange County – November 18th – 11am to 4pm – RSVP: 877-483-9937
Riverside County – November 18th – 10am to 3pm – 866-417-7300
Placer County – December 8th – 6pm to 8pm – RSVP: 888-228-0837
The state recently announced its plan to offer an option for providers to submit timesheets electronically instead of using the current paper system. Electronic timesheets could help alleviate the stress, headaches, and hardships that come when IHSS providers are forced to wait for late paychecks. A new system could ensure we are paid correctly and on time.
In this proposal, providers would be able to access and submit timesheets using a computer, tablet, or smartphone.
The state plans to first conduct a pilot to test the new electronic system in one or two counties beginning in May 2017. If this pilot is successful, the goal would be to roll out the electronic option to all IHSS caregivers by July 1, 2017.
UDW is working closely with the state as they develop this new process. We want to ensure that electronic timesheets are an improvement over paper timesheets. The best way to do so is to work with caregivers, so UDW will host a small focus group of IHSS providers in early December to test the new technology and give the state feedback.
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 oldest son Ronald was studying to become a professor when one day he had a catastrophic stroke that left him quadriplegic, non-verbal, and dependent on a feeding tube. After his stroke, he was initially in a nursing home, but I could see it wasn’t good for his health. My family decided the best thing for him was to receive care at home. About eight years ago, I quit my job of 16 years to become Ronald’s full-time home care provider.
All of my money goes to my bills. I don’t have enough to set aside in a savings account. At this point, I just have to hope nothing happens to me. It isn’t easy caring for someone with my son’s needs, but I plan to keep providing him care as long as he needs me. Not only because it is what’s best for him, but also because without Social Security, I can’t afford to retire. Parents and spouses who provide care for their loved ones deserve the same benefits as all other working Americans.
Patricia Kutzer is an IHSS provider for her son Ronald in Madera County. Read more about our fight to win Social Security and Medicare for spouse and parent providers here.
Statement by UDW Executive Director Doug Moore in response to the 2016-17 California state budget:
Today we celebrate another hard-won victory for California home care providers and recipients. The state budget, signed into law by Governor Brown yesterday, is a testament to the work of the UDW caregivers who have advocated for years to protect the home care program in California. These providers have worked tirelessly to demand dignity for their profession, and respect for the seniors and people with disabilities who rely on their care.
The budget fully funds the In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program for the next three years, which means IHSS clients will receive all of the necessary hours of care that have been assessed by social workers. Last year, these hours were restored for a one-year period after being cut for the previous four years.
While UDW is thankful to our elected leaders for taking action in this budget, our work is not done.
We will remain diligent in our work to restore IHSS hours permanently, because Californians who rely on care need more than a temporary fix. In-home care allows some of our most vulnerable neighbors and loved ones to remain healthy and safe in their homes. A permanent end to IHSS cuts is necessary to ensure people who need home care services no longer live in fear that their care will be cut or taken away from them.
United Domestic Workers of America (UDW)/AFSCME Local 3930 is a homecare 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 hundreds of thousands of seniors and people with disabilities to stay safe and healthy at home.
When Madera County caregiver Cynthia Wilson’s IHSS paycheck didn’t arrive on time in January, she and her grandson lost their apartment.
Thankfully, they were able to turn to friends and neighbors for help, but since then she has been terrified that another late paycheck or unexpected expense could leave her homeless again. And that worry increases exponentially when Cynthia thinks about retirement, because like many IHSS providers, Cynthia has no retirement benefits or savings.
“I’m 62,” said Cynthia. “If I work until I’m 70, I might get about $1,200 a month from Social Security, but that’s not set in stone either.”
Cynthia shares a worry that many UDW caregivers who are eligible to pay into social security can understand: will it be enough when we retire? “I’m scared that it won’t be, and my grandson and I could end up homeless again,” she said. I’m raising him now, so whatever affects me affects him. If I can’t buy food, he can’t eat. If I can’t pay the electricity bill, he sits in the dark with me.”
If passed by the state legislature and signed into law by the governor, Senate Bill 1234 would implement the California Secure Choice Retirement Savings Program on January 1, 2017. This program would provide workers – including all IHSS providers once it’s determined to be legally permissible under state and federal laws- with the opportunity to contribute a small percentage of their wages towards their own retirement savings account. There will be no employer match but this is an important first step toward easing some of the worries about the future that caregivers like Cynthia live with every day. And IHSS providers are not alone: about 7.5 million workers in California lack access to a retirement savings program, and three out of five families with a head-of-household that is 65 or older have no retirement money saved.
“Being able to actually put money aside for retirement would give me a little extra,” said Cynthia. “I don’t want to have to rely on food stamps and other public assistance. I want to feel secure, and at least able to take care of my basic needs.”
Kady Crick, an IHSS provider from Riverside County, echoed Cynthia’s feelings. “I’ll be 61 this year. I want to know I have a cushion besides Social Security when I retire,” she said. “This program would give my husband and me more comfort for the future, because Social Security may not be enough.”
SB 1234 currently includes IHSS providers, and if we are determined to be eligible for the program, the California Secure Choice Retirement Savings Program will help IHSS caregivers take control of our financial future, so we can retire with dignity.
And we’re still working to secure basic retirement benefits like Social Security and Medicare for parent and spouse IHSS providers. Read more here: http://www.udwa.org/2016/05/help-caregivers-win-social-security-medicare/.
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.
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.
My 39-year-old son Jacob was born with a brainstem defect. He relies on me 24/7 to provide for all of his needs, including bathing, preparing his meals, paramedical care, and exercise. My home care wages are the primary source of income in our home when my husband has trouble getting landscaping work. I’m grateful for the opportunity to work as Jacob’s home care provider, but I’m frustrated that my work is not taken seriously.
Exclusion from Social Security and Medicare is going to hurt my family. At some point, I may not be able to care for Jacob any longer, and I will need to retire. It makes me angry to know that even if I retire from home care, I will likely never be able to stop working. Both my husband and I will have to keep working somehow until our bodies fall apart. We’re in our 60s, and worrying about our financial future has caused me many sleepless nights. All workers, including parent and spouse home care providers, deserve access to Social Security, Medicare, unemployment, and paid family leave benefits.
Roxanne Bender is an IHSS provider for her son Jacob in El Dorado County. Read more about our fight to win Social Security and Medicare for spouse and parent providers here.
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.