On January 21, 2014, the Supreme Court will hear Harris v. Quinn, a case brought by the National Right to Work Committee, an extreme right-wing think tank. This case threatens home care workers’ right to collective bargaining with states to improve working conditions.
More than that, Harris v. Quinn jeopardizes the ability of senior citizens and people with disabilities to live independently at home. Weakening our home care workforce means more folks will be forced to live in an institution.
I have been a Personal Assistant for four years now, caring for people with disabilities in my Springfield, Illinois community. 17 years ago my husband fell ill and that was my first experience as a caregiver. I fell in love with the work then, and with each new consumer I work with, that love grows.
This line of work involves more than an exchange of services. You build a relationship with people and share in the joy of their independence through the work you do. My consumers get to stay in our community living safely and independently where they want to be, and that makes me very proud to be a home care provider.
Providing home care can be difficult, though. I constantly worry about how I’ll cover my bills each month because I don’t get many hours. Sometimes I work without pay because John, my current consumer, needs the extra help.
Over the years, home care workers just like me in Illinois and a lot of other states came together and formed unions. Together, with other home care workers, we were able to improve our working conditions and the quality of care for our clients. Advancements like higher wages, benefits, paid time off, and job safety training have allowed us to make home care jobs good jobs.
As more people see this work as a way to provide for their own families while making a difference in the lives of other families, turnover goes down and the quality of care for our clients goes up.
My coworkers and other healthcare providers, senior citizens and people with disabilities, and the entire community are deeply concerned about the outcome of this case, and hope the Supreme Court will do the right thing.