If you missed our telephone town hall meeting for DORS Personal Assistants on Thursday, May 26, you can read all the updates below.
We have a huge victory to celebrate – the General Assembly overwhelmingly passed our bill that will protect health insurance and training, and guarantee a $15/hour minimum wage for Personal Assistants. This bill was part of our union’s legislative package, that also includes:
- Winning $15 for home care aides working for private agencies,
- Protecting the Community Care Program from huge cuts,
- Protections for child care providers, and
- Expanding the Child Care Assistance Program so thousands of more working families can get the quality, affordable child care they need to work.
Over the holiday weekend, lawmakers passed bills to protect the Community Care Program from Governor Rauner’s $200 million cut, and to protect health insurance and raise wages for home care aides to $15/hour. We are still awaiting passage of our child care expansion bill, but lawmakers took bold action by passing the critical pieces of legislation protecting child care providers, personal assistants, home care aides, and seniors from Governor Rauner’s attacks.
We got legislators in the General Assembly to support our fight for $15 thanks to the thousands of PAs and people with disabilities who took action. From making phone calls to state lawmakers, attending meetings and actions, traveling to Springfield to lobby, and speaking out in the media – everyone who did something to make this happen should feel incredibly proud of what we’ve accomplished.
It’s very exciting, but there is still a fight ahead of us because our bill is now at the governor’s desk. He has two choices: he can either sign the bill into law, or he can veto the bill. If the Governor signs the bill, Personal Assistants will start earning $15 on July 1st, and our healthcare and our training would be secured.
However, given that this governor has been demanding a 4-year wage freeze at the bargaining table, we can expect Bruce Rauner to veto our bill and deny us our chance to earn the $15 that we deserve. He’s even already making threats, saying if we earn $15/hour he will have to cut other services and programs. This is just the governor trying to turn others against us. Raising wages for the Personal Assistants – some of the lowest paid state workers – isn’t going to bankrupt Illinois and isn’t going to mean home care services get cut. We all know the Governor significantly raised salaries for his own staff when he took over, the governor didn’t claim this would result in cuts to services, did he? No, he didn’t. And when Rauner pays out fees to big banks each month , or when he gives tax breaks to big corporations, he isn’t talking about how that’s hurting Illinois’ most vulnerable either.
We know that raising wages for Personal Assistants is critical to improving care for people with disabilities and that’s why disability advocates are standing with us in our fight for $15. When workers earn a wage they can support themselves on, and have access to basic benefits like health insurance and training, we know that skilled, reliable caregivers are able to stay on the job and continue to serve their consumers. This creates stability for our consumers and will help meet the increasing demand for home care services.
If Governor Rauner vetoes our bill, that doesn’t mean this is over. We had overwhelming support in both the Illinois Senate and the Illinois House, and with just a few more supporters we would have the numbers we need to override the governor’s veto. We have our work cut out for us though, because we will have to convince some republicans to support us. In either case, the Governor has 60 days to sign or veto our legislation, so we will keep everyone informed on next steps.
We are continuing to bargain in good faith with the State, even though they are refusing to. Rauner is escalating his attacks, so we must escalate our fight for a strong contract. Since Governor Rauner illegally implemented his DORS overtime policy on May 1, we’ve escalated our fight in big ways and we must do the same to win a fair contract.
On our last call at the end of April, we discussed how the Governor tried to use overtime as a bargaining chip to get us to agree to a 4-year wage freeze for PAs and also for child care providers as well. The overwhelming majority of PAs said we should not agree to a 4-year wage freeze so we rejected the Governor’s ridiculous and unfair proposal, and we fought back. PAs and people with disabilities impacted by the overtime policy have been all over the press – sharing their stories and the negative impact this policy is having on their lives. In Chicago, 16 brave Personal Assistants and people with disabilities risked arrest by committing civil disobedience and blocking a major street near a DHS office to protest to what’s happening.
Soon after, State Representative Mary Flowers called an emergency hearing in the House Health Care Availability and Accessibility Committee where advocates, PAs, and consumers had the opportunity to testify about why this policy must be suspended immediately. Officials from DHS, including the Home Services Bureau Chief Vivian Anderson, were there and had to listen to all the testimony before lawmakers grilled them about their terrible policy.
Later that day, a larger group of home care workers, consumers, and advocates disrupted an event Governor Rauner was attending in Springfield and confronted him directly about his Overtime Policy. We caught Rauner off guard and forced him to see the faces of the people with disabilities and workers he’s hurting. Our message was amplified through the media and we put the Governor on notice, forcing him to slip out a back door.
Meanwhile, PAs and consumers sent emails and made phone calls to Vivian Anderson, to increase the pressure.
Soon after and no doubt thanks to all the pressure they were feeling, the State informed us that they will not be imposing any discipline against Personal Assistants who worked over 40 hours during the first two weeks of May – between May 1-15. This is some good news, but the State is saying they will start disciplining people for the next pay period so we must keep up the pressure. Our union has filed an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) charge against the state for implementing their overtime policy – we believe it is illegal for them to implement this policy because we have not finished bargaining over it.
Here is what our union is advising for those PAs who have overtime hours and your consumer has been unable to find additional caregivers:
- If your Consumer is eligible for an exception to the State’s policy, they should apply for the exception right away with the DORS office.
- The State is saying that PAs who work unauthorized overtime will be disciplined, and terminated on the third violation. If your consumer has more than 40 hours and cannot find another PA to work the hours above 40, and if you choose to work those hours- you should submit both an overtime justification form and the affidavit that we created along with your time sheet. The affidavit certifies that there was no one else available to work the hours and your consumer’s health and safety would be at risk. Those forms can be found on our website here or you can get them from our Member Resource Center by calling 866-933-7348.
- The State is continuing to say that this overtime policy isn’t going to cause any harm so it’s really important that those with consumers who are struggling to find additional caregivers report it to us so we can lift up those stories in the press to keep the pressure on the state.
Just like with overtime, the state is also trying to implement a new background check system without coming to an agreement with our union. PAs have probably received a letter from the state about this new IMPACT system that requires background checks. Our union has demanded that the state bargain the terms with us. We have also filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge against the state – just as we did when they implemented the overtime policy without negotiating a deal with us.
Our union understands the importance of people with disabilities having caregivers they can count on to have their best interests at heart, but it’s important that background checks do not infringe upon consumers rights or unfairly target PAs. We will continue to demand that the State bargain with us over their background check policy and we encourage PAs to report concerns or issues with it to our Member Resource Center at 866-933-7348. We will be in touch as we have new updates on this front.