Here’s what we discussed on our telephone town hall meeting that took place Wednesday, June 22. If you have any further questions, please call our Member Resource Center at 866-933-7348.
June 30 is the one year anniversary of our union contracts expiring for 52,000 Illinois personal assistants and child care providers in our union. It is also the one year anniversary of our state going without a budget.
PAs are some of the lowest paid state workers, but the governor has spent the last year demanding we accept a four-year wage freeze at the bargaining table, in addition to elimination of our health insurance and training. He has implemented a terrible overtime policy that is hurting both consumers and PAs, and now he’s pushing forward with a background check program without negotiating the terms with our union.
Governor Rauner is also attacking home care workers and consumers in his budget. The governor has tried to kick people with disabilities and seniors out of the home care programs they rely on at every turn. Last summer he wanted to raise the DON score so people had to be even sicker and more disabled to get the services they need, and this year the governor wants to slash $200 million from the Community Care Program for seniors who need home care services.
We had our last bargaining session with the State on Wednesday, June 15, and while we came ready to make progress, the State did not. Instead of looking for common ground and places where we could agree, the state continues to demand their outrageous proposals:
- A four-year wage freeze
- Elimination of our health insurance
- Elimination of our training program
The State began enforcing their terrible overtime policy on May 1st. Hundreds of PAs have seen their paychecks slashed due to the 40 hour per week cap, and consumers are scrambling to find additional providers to work their hours over 40.
There are over 2,000 PAs who received occurrences from the State since May 1st for working their normal hours because they couldn’t abandon their consumers. We have heard reports that those PAs and consumers are receiving letters threatening them about the 3-strikes and you’re out policy. Meaning, the State is poised to fire over 2,000 caregivers whose only crime is that they refuse to abandon the people with disabilities they serve.
We have already filed Unfair Labor Practice charges against the State because they implemented this policy without coming to an agreement with our union. Earlier this month, we released a special report that highlighted all the issues with the policy and shared the heart-breaking personal stories of those impacted from across Illinois. Last week personal assistant Paralee Stewart traveled to Washington, D.C. and spoke on a panel at the Department of Labor explaining the pain and suffering that the overtime policy is causing. We are also in talks with state lawmakers about introducing a bill to try and stop this policy.
IMPACT (Illinois Medicaid Program Advanced Cloud Technology) Background Check System
The State is telling us that they are obligated to start enforcing a background check system under new federal guidelines. However, because PAs have a union, the state does not have the right to implement new policies without negotiating with us and coming to an agreement first.
Our union completely understands the importance of people with disabilities having caregivers they can count on to have their best interests at heart, but it’s also important that the rights of consumers and PAs are protected. Consumers should be able to continue to choose who they hire, and consumers and PAs should be able to obtain waivers if they have something in their background that comes up in the background check. The State has given us very little information regarding what exactly the background checks will be screening for – this is very problematic and scary, especially if these background checks will ban PAs from the program.
We have filed an Unfair Labor Practice charge against the State on the background check policy just as we did with the overtime policy.
The State has informed us that if a PA does not fill out the IMPACT form, they will stop paying them for their services. With that in mind, we encourage PAs to fill out the paperwork to enroll in the IMPACT system by June 30, but we will keep fighting to get clarity and ensure this policy does not do more punishing than protecting.
If a PA is notified that they will be terminated due to the results of the background checks, we urge you to notify our Member Resource Center at 866-933-7348 immediately so we can represent you and provide you with possible options.
Since the first of the year, hundreds of PAs have done their part – attending meetings and actions, speaking out in the press, talking to fellow PAs about getting involved, and meeting with our state lawmakers. That’s how we were able to pass our bill that would set a minimum wage of $15/hour for PAs and that would protect our health insurance and training. In addition to the bill for PAs, we also passed legislation to raise wages for home care aides at private agencies who work with seniors to $15/hour, and we passed bills to protect the child care workforce from attacks at the bargaining table, and a bill to expand the Child Care Assistance Program so more working parents can get the quality affordable child care services they need so they can go to work. Lawmakers also passed a bill to protect the Community Care Program from Governor Rauner’s proposed cuts.
These bills are now sitting on the governor’s desk and he has a little over one month left to sign or veto these bills. Even if the governor vetoes our bills, that doesn’t mean this fight is over. If we can muster a few more votes from republicans in the General Assembly we would have the support we need for a veto-override (3/5 of the General Assembly).
In the coming weeks, we will be calling on legislators and the governor to do the right thing and support personal assistants and people with disabilities. While we hope they will do the right thing, we all know this is an election year and Governor Rauner is threatening republicans to stick with him or else. The governor has millions of dollars that he’s ready to unleash this summer and fall ahead of the November elections, and state republicans know that the governor will either use that money to help them or to hurt them.
While we will be doing everything we can to keep the pressure on our legislators so they vote to override the governor’s veto if the time comes, we must also have a long-term strategy so we don’t find ourselves in this same place a year from now.
That’s why the elections this fall are so critical. State lawmakers who choose the governor over their constituents have no business being re-elected to represent us in Springfield.
We have a huge opportunity this November to elect more lawmakers who understand the importance of home care services and who are committed to raising standards for home care workers and consumers. With a veto-proof majority in the General Assembly and thousands of PAs and people with disabilities engaged and taking action, we have a plan that will stop this governor and a plan to win a fair contract that we deserve.
But, we cannot do it alone. We need YOU to get involved and join us. There are lots of upcoming opportunities to get involved so please call our Member Resource Center at 866-933-7348 to find out how you can help and join this critical fight!