On September 17, President Obama announced that the 2 million home care providers across the United States will finally be extended federal overtime and minimum wage protections. Home care is now the second-fastest growing job in America, and these long overdue changes will bring caregivers in line with the vast majority of the American workforce. The home care industry is one made up of primarily minority females who have struggled for decades to rise out of the shadows and have their work regarded as professional and vital to the consumers they serve. The majority of home care providers currently bring home poverty wages, rarely have access to quality, affordable healthcare, and are not afforded benefits like sick days or retirement security options.
“For almost 40 years, direct care workers have been denied basic employment rights,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez. “A fair wage will further stabilize and professionalize this critical line of work, which of course will lead to better quality care.”
“This rule will present a win-win solution for both home care workers and the people for whom they are caring,” Perez said.
Disability rights advocates like the American Association of People With Disabilities applauded extension of minimum wage and overtime protections to home care providers, with AAPD’s Executive Vice President saying, “It’s really just a simple matter of fairness.”
These changes mark a major step forward towards recognizing home care providers for the important roles they play in the healthcare and independence of seniors and people with disabilities. They will help stabilize and strengthen the home care workforce, making it easier for people who use home care to find skilled and reliable providers.
After five months of negotiations, the bargaining team of home child care providers representing over 28,000 fellow providers reached a Tentative Agreement with the State of Illinois. This was a challenging time to bargain a new contract, with the State struggling economically and tough times for working families. Providers knew there was a lot at stake, not just for their jobs, but working parents and kids too. That’s why members made this contract fight about winning for both providers and the working parents who count on them for quality child care so they can work.
Despite the challenges, providers and parents united and brought their message directly to Governor Quinn with action taken by thousands:
The action taken made the difference and providers reached a Tentative Agreement that achieved the priorities that they decided on. In addition to winning rate increases, protecting healthcare and Quality Rating System add-ons, winning money for a training fund, and protecting union rights, providers also won a commitment from the State of $13.5 million over 18 months to lower co-pays for working parents in the Child Care Assistance Program.
“The new rates and rate add-ons we won in this contract make significant progress to achieving living wages for child care providers,” said Maria del Carmen Macias, a provider from Chicago and bargaining committee member. “The new add-ons are especially important for me, I care for infants and have children who go to Head Start and recognition for that through rate increases will go a long way.”
“The new Union Training Fund that we won in our contract is so important for us to be able to provide even higher quality care for our kids,” explained Annie Yarbary, a Decatur child care provider who also served on the bargaining team. “In the past, I’ve had difficulty making trainings that I wanted to attend due to work schedules for the parents who rely on me. With our own training fund, we can create a flexible training schedule so more providers can participate and advance their professional development.”
Thousands of providers cast their ballots, with 99% voting ‘YES’ to approve and implement the new contract. With the ratification, progress towards fairness for providers, parents, and kids across Illinois became a reality.
Child care providers have come a long way in our local, and the improvements they’ve won in this agreement will be a model across the country.
“This was my first time serving on the child care bargaining committee and I’m so proud of everything we’ve won in this contract. Whether it’s progress towards timely payments to providers, notification about adverse terminations, or expanding the food program and our union rights, we made progress on all fronts for working parents, providers, and kids,” said Lesley Moore, a provider in Galesburg and first time bargaining committee member. “We could not have achieved this incredible contract without the action taken by thousands around the state who supported us as we bargained at the table. Now it’s time to look ahead to protecting funding for the Child Care Assistance Program next year!”
Congratulations to home child care providers across Illinois, and stay tuned as we look ahead to protecting the Child Care Assistance Program in next year’s budget.
As federal lawmakers prepare to head back to DC next week, SEIU HCII members joined allies for a press conference outside of GOP headquarters in downtown Chicago on Thursday, September 5. Business owners, community leaders, and union members spoke out at the event, urging republican lawmakers to stop blocking a vote on comprehensive immigration reform. Millions of families, thousands of businesses, and countless communities are waiting on desperately needed reform, the time is now!
Check out photos from the press conference below.
On Thursday, August 29th, community members, faith leaders, lawmakers, and striking fast food workers united with Touchette Regional Hospital caregivers, service, and maintenance staff for a rally outside the facility. Over 150 people turned out to show their support for hospital workers who have been in contract negotiations with their employer for months, and are asking for fair wage increases that acknowledge the hard work they do every day serving patients. Tearful testimony from workers illustrated the dire situations some are facing when they get off work to find bills that keep increasing while wages remain stagnate.
The Nurse Aides, Admissions Representatives, Cooks, Food Servers, Housekeepers, Phlebotomists, and many others who work at Touchette Hospital are 23 out of 25 in the region in pay.(1) Low wages contribute to an increasingly high rate of turnover, where experienced caregivers are forced to look elsewhere for employment. This leads to low patient survey scores that negatively impact Medicare and Medicaid payments to the Hospital.(2) Low wages also create financial instability for workers and their families, with too many full-time employees forced to rely on payday loans, food stamps, and even public assistance in order to provide healthcare for their children.
Touchette received 79% of net patient service revenue, or just over $46 million, from Medicare and Medicaid in FY 2012. Their parent company, Southern Illinois Healthcare Foundation, has received more than $37 million in federal grants and increased net assets by $7.2 million since FY 2011.(3)
The last several weeks, workers have garnered community support from local Mayors, faith leaders, and labor leaders who signed onto an open letter that ran in the East St. Louis Monitor and Belleville News-Democrat on Thursday, August 29th. The letter echoes the message workers carried at the rally – Touchette Regional Hospital is a highly subsidized hospital and as investors, local community members want to see management do the right thing and invest in their workforce, which will ultimately stimulate the local economy and help stabilize struggling communities.
“With the Affordable Care Act’s new mandates going into effect next year, many more East St. Louis residents are going to have access to private insurance and will have a choice in where they receive their care,” said Misha Whitehead, a Certified Nurse Aid at Touchette. “Touchette needs to be more competitive and attract that business in order to secure its place in the market. Investing in new carpet or remodeling floors is great, but if Touchette doesn’t invest in a steady, experienced workforce, to attract and retain the best quality caregivers and others, patients are likely to go elsewhere for care. And that’s not good for the hospital or for our community.”
“I’m standing with our local hospital workers because our communities need quality jobs. The cost of living keeps in increasing, but few Touchette workers have had pay increases that even keep up with rising cost of child care, rent, and groceries,” said Pastor Norma Patterson of East St. Louis Good Shepherd of Faith Church. “This hospital needs to recognize that investing in their workforce will lead to even higher quality patient care, a better future for Centerville’s only Hospital and stronger, a more stable community in East St. Louis.”
“The community support we received for our rally and ongoing contract negotiations has been tremendous,” said Ron McCray, a Materials Management Tech from Belleville who serves on the bargaining team and has been at Touchette for almost 4 years. “Our rally brought people from all walks of life together, and very few things in this world can do that.”
Workers head back to the bargaining table later in September – stay tuned for more updates on their campaign for a fair contract.
1. FY 2013 Final Rule Wage Index PUFS, Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services FY 2013 Wage Index
2. “Survey of Patients Hospital Experiences HCAHPS” (October 1, 2011 – September 30, 2012), “Hospital Value-Based Purchasing Patient Experience of Care Domain Scores” (Baseline Period July 1, 2009 – March 31, 2010; Performance Period July 1, 2011 – March 31, 2012), and “Hospital Value-Based Purchasing Total Performance Score” (Baseline Period July 1, 2009 – March 31, 2010; Performance Period July 1, 2011 – March 31, 2012), “Hospital Compare”, Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, July 30, 2013
3. “Combined Statements of Operations” and “Note C – Net Patient Service Revenue”, Touchette Regional Hospital FY 2012 Audited Financial Statements, p. 6, 14; and “Statements of Activities and Changes in Unrestricted Net Assets”, Southern Illinois Healthcare Foundation Financial Statements – Years Ended December 31, 2012 and 2011, p. 6