Chicago Home Care Workers Launch Fight for $15, Taking Push for Higher Wages to the Ballot Box

Home Care Fight for $15

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For Immediate Release: October 15, 2014

Contact: Kaitlin DeCero, Kaitlin.decero@seiuhcil.org

 

Chicago Home Care Workers Launch Fight for $15, Taking Push for Higher Wages to the Ballot Box

 U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky stands with home care workers who Chicago seniors, people with disabilities, promising to back push for higher pay 

 

Chicago, IL – Workers who care for Chicago’s elderly and people with disabilities helped launch the home care Fight for $15 week of action on October 15, at a meeting with U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky. Less than a month from Election Day, Representative Schakowsky joined the workers to pledge her support for their drive for higher pay and better rights on the job.

The action was one of nearly a dozen being led across the country this week by both union and nonunion home care workers. From coast to coast, in red states and blue ones, they are challenging local, state, and federal candidates to do whatever it takes to raise pay to $15 per hour for America’s fastest-growing workforce.

“We work hard every day to care for those who need us, but are paid so little that we can barely afford to take care of ourselves or our families,” said OJ McGee, home care worker from the South Side of Chicago. “The pay we earn just doesn’t cut it, so we’re joining together to demand more, and we’re asking our elected leaders to support us.”

In cities across the country, candidates joined home care workers this week to declare their support for the Fight for $15. On Wednesday, home care workers rallied with Washington DC mayoral candidate Muriel Bowser after she signed a pledge to back home care workers in drive for higher wages. Home care workers also rallied with supportive elected officials in Washington state and Massachusetts.

“Home care workers hold some of the most important jobs in our country, caring for older Americans and the disabled by providing critical services like bathing, dressing, and preparing meals,” said U.S. Representative Jan Schakowsky. “It’s outrageous that these workers – overwhelmingly women – should have to fight for a decent wage and basic dignity on the job. I will have their backs until they win, and so should every other elected official in this country who cares about the future of America’s workers, our economy, and ensuring we can meet the growing need for quality long-term services.”

As they take the Fight for $15 to the ballot box, home care workers across the country also confronted candidates who have stood in the way of higher wages. Home care workers on Wednesday protested outside the campaign offices of GOP Senate candidates Terri Lynn Land in Michigan, and David Perdue in Georgia, after each candidate declined to sign a pledge committing to help home care workers raise their pay to $15 per hour. In Ohio, they confronted Gov. John Kasich at his office in Columbus.

Chicago caregivers will unite again on Saturday, October 18, for a Care Canvass. Workers will share testimony during a speak-out before fanning out in the community on Chicago’s south side to talk about the importance of raising the minimum wage and electing lawmakers that support home care services.

These actions follow the first-ever Home Care Workers Summit in St. Louis, MO, from Oct. 5 to 7. And they come just after a month after home care workers, inspired by the nearly two-year-old campaign for higher pay and union rights by fast-food workers, announced they were joining the Fight for $15.

As baby boomers age, home care is America’s fastest-growing occupation, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics projecting that from 2012 through 2022, more home care jobs will be created than any other occupation. Already, there are 2.5 million home care workers across the country—and that doesn’t include many more who work in the informal economy and aren’t captured by government statistics.

Yet while the industry is expanding, its wages remain low. The average wage of a home care worker is just $9.57 per hour. For someone working full-time, that’s $383 a week before taxes, or $1,531 a month, barely enough to rent a one bedroom apartment in many parts of the country, let alone pay for utilities, food, gas, and child care expenses.

Even these figures are high, since they don’t account for the unpredictable and part-time hours that reduce home care wages even further. The result is median annual earnings of just $17,000 a year. Black and Latina women bear the brunt of these low wages, as the workforce is 91% female and 56% non-white.

“Higher wages and better rights for workers in home care would drive a more broadly shared recovery, helping millions move into the middle class,” said Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union. “By joining together, home care workers will have the strength to win improvements not only for themselves and their families, but for our entire economy.”

 

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