HJR 45 would doom low-wage home care, child care workers to permanent poverty

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:October 26, 2011
CONTACT: Mike Truppa (312-980-9020; 312-296-1956)

SPRINGFIELD, IL –The Illinois Legislature’s proposal to cap wages for public employees would condemn more than 60,000 low-wage workers to permanent poverty and threaten the security of people with disabilities, parents and children, members of the Illinois largest labor union said Wednesday.

SEIU Healthcare Illinois, uniting more than 91,000 home care, child care and healthcare workers, says that Illinois House Joint Resolution 45 will prevent state-funded home care and child care workers from obtaining a living wage. The proposal would authorize the General Assembly to set a fixed cap on public employees’ wages—disproportionately harming the state’s lowest-wage workers.

“I already have to choose which bills I can afford to pay on time every month–between the light bill, the gas bill, insurance, and everything else, my wages just don’t go far enough” said Minnie Lee, a Chicago-based Personal Assistant who cares for a person with a disability in the DHS/ORS Home Services Program. “If I can’t afford to stay in this job, my disabled sister will have nobody to take care of her. We’re already struggling to get by. This is important work we’re doing and it’s not fair that we can’t afford to live.”

Lee is one of 28,000 home care workers providing vital care for people with disabilities, helping them live independently and saving Illinois the added costs of nursing home care. The resolution would also imperil 33,000 child care providers who care for children from low-income working families through the Illinois Child Care Assistance Program.

“Thousands of people need us–not just the people who directly depend on us for health care, but their families, who depend on us for the peace of mind to go to work knowing their loved ones are in good hands,” said Patty Rowsey, a DORS/ORS Personal Assistant from Quincy. “Many people who live in my community and do this work are already struggling to make ends meet. If we can’t afford to do this work anymore, what’s going to happen to our economy when people have to leave their jobs to take care of their loved ones?”

“Everyone in my community is struggling because of the economy. It’s hard enough for parents to find and keep a job to support their families,” said Janice Bolling, a home child care provider in Chicago. “At the same time, many child care providers are struggling to keep our doors open, too. But without quality, reliable child care parents can’t work—it’s that simple.”

Both low-wage workforces struggled for years to gain collective bargaining rights and to raise workers’ wages, though the majority of home care and child care workers still live in poverty. HRJ 45 would derail these workers’ chances of earning a living wage.

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SEIU Healthcare Illinois & Indiana unites more than 91,000 healthcare, home care, nursing home and child care workers across two states in the fight to raise standards across industries, to strengthen the political voice for working families and for access to quality, affordable care for all families.

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