Personal Assistant Lynda Harper: Supreme Court Case Threatens Progress, But Home Care Providers & Consumers Will Not Stop Uniting for Improvements

Lynda HarperBy Lynda Harper, Illinois Personal Assistant

I don’t normally follow what’s happening at our nation’s highest Court, but a decision that will be handed down in the next few weeks has got my attention.

I’m a home care provider here in Illinois. I provide services for people with disabilities who want to live independently at home.

The work I do is not easy, but I know how important it is to those who rely on me for cooking, cleaning, help with personal hygiene, administering medication, and so much more.

I’ve provided home care on and off for 27 years and I’ve seen real progress made in terms of wages and benefits for providers, and improved standards and funding so people with disabilities get the highest quality care possible.

When I started out in 1987, I made just $1/hour. I was a recent widow with children who needed me to provide for them. We struggled day in and day out on the poverty wages I earned.

There was no access to healthcare and job training, and both home care providers and consumers suffered. The workforce was plagued with high turnover and too many quality providers were forced to find other work due to the low wages and lack of benefits.

Then we organized our union. As more home care providers got involved, we came out of the shadows with our consumers at our sides. Over the last several decades, we’ve gained a real voice and transformed the Home Services Program.

Together, we’ve fought for fair wages, access to healthcare, training and orientation, and we’ve protected the program from cuts during the worst recession our state has ever experienced, ensuring that no one with a disability who wants to remain at home is forced into costly institutional care.

Harris v Quinn is a Supreme Court case that threatens  to take us backwards by attempting to weaken home care providers’ ability to unite and negotiate with the state for improvements to home care jobs and services. A decision will be released in the coming weeks and there are tens of thousands of home care providers and consumers watching closely.

We’ve come so far here in Illinois over the last 30 years to create an environment where seniors and people with disabilities can live with dignity and independence at home, with help from providers like me. We’ve come so far in making home care jobs decent jobs, in curbing turnover and ensuring that those providing these critical services aren’t forced into poverty. This December providers will earn $13/hour for our work, thousands have access to quality healthcare, and we’ve established a training fund that arms us with the skills we need to deliver quality care. We cannot go backwards.

No court case is going to stop home care providers and consumers from staying united and standing up for good jobs and quality home care, but I hope the Court will recognize that our current system works so we can continue to build on the strong foundation we have.

See Lynda Harper’s comments posted here in the Springfield Journal-Register as a letter to the editor.

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