Personal Assistant February 28 Telephone Town Hall Meeting Recap

If you missed our telephone town hall meeting on Thursday, February 28, read the recap of what was discussed below. 

$15 Minimum Wage Bill Victory

Illinois workers started calling for a $15 minimum wage in 2012 and so much work has gone into making this a reality. SEIU members have rallied, lobbied, shared our stories in the media, and even risked arrest for years to get this done and we made history last week by becoming the first Midwestern state to pass a bill that will raise the wage to $15 per hour.

Right now, PAs earn $13 per hour and the current Illinois minimum wage is only $8.25.

Starting January 1, 2020, the minimum wage will go up to $9.25/hour, later July 1, 2020 it goes to $10/hour, and then on January 1 for each year that follows the wage will go up by one dollar until it reaches $15 per hour January 1, 2025.

While PA pay won’t be impacted right away, over 1 million other works will be impacted right away when the first increase goes into effect and that’s very good news. What it also does though, is give us leverage as we go back to the bargaining table in a few months to negotiate our new contract. With a governor that supports raising the wage to $15, PAs can go into bargaining and demand a wage of $15 right now for the important work that we do.

48-cent Raises and Back Pay

Our union’s number one priority for Personal Assistants currently is getting the 48-cent raises implemented and the more than $27 million in back pay that’s owed to workers released.

PAs won 48-cent raises in the 2017 budget compromise that were set to take effect on August 5, 2017. Bruce Rauner broke the law and refused to implement the raises so our union took him to court and PAs took action all across the state to demand the money and to make sure that everyone in our communities knew what Rauner was doing to us.

In Spring 2018, a circuit court judge ruled in our favor and said that Rauner had to release the raises and back pay. Unfortunately, Rauner appealed that decision because he didn’t like it. Luckily, that judge required that the funding for the raises to cover the back pay be put in a separate escrow account so that it couldn’t be spent on anything else and so it would be waiting for workers regardless of the appeal.

PAs worked very hard after that to make sure that Bruce Rauner wasn’t re-elected and we were successful. JB Pritzker denounced Rauner’s actions in withholding our raises during his campaign and that gave us hope that he was going to do the right thing if elected.

Right now we are working with the Pritzker administration to come to an agreement on the timeline for the raises to be implemented and the back pay to be released.

On February 14, PAs traveled to Springfield to meet with a senior official from the administration about this issue. PAs shared stories about how hard it is to get by on what we earn and explained the important roles we play in the lives of people with disabilities. The week leading up to that meeting, over 1200 PAs made a call directly to the governor’s office to ask that he take action and implement the raise and release the back pay. Thousands of PAs also signed our petition calling on the administration to do the right thing. We delivered those petitions when we met with the administration.

Late last Friday, we received word that the appellate court again ruled with us on this issue so that’s very good news and just adds more pressure for this to be resolved quickly. We are in discussions regularly and are hopeful we’re getting close to an agreement with the state – as soon as it’s finalized we will share it out with everyone.

Overtime Policy

Another priority for us is to get the terrible overtime policy that Bruce Rauner implemented rescinded. The 45-hour cap that the policy put in place hurt so many people with disabilities and caregivers. This legislative session we are running a bill that would replace the current policy with an increased cap and more exceptions. Under our bill, no overtime cap could be implemented that is lower than 55 hours per week, exceptions would be easier to apply for, and PAs could work up to 66 hours per week when granted an exception. This would be a much more flexible policy and would protect the rights of consumers to choose who their caregivers are, and wouldn’t punish PAs.

Senator Andy Manar and Representative Natalie Manley are sponsoring our bill and we will need PAs to come to Springfield to help us fight to get it passed. We’re scheduling mini lobby days throughout legislative session and we hope you will join us for some of those lobby days – just call our Member Resource Center at 866-933-7348 to sign up for an upcoming lobby day.

Fair Tax

Governor Pritzker wants the General Assembly to take the first steps toward approving a Fair Tax in Illinois this legislative session. Our union has long supported a Fair Tax in Illinois because we know that the millionaires and billionaires should be paying more than home care workers and other low-wage workers.

Right now, our income tax structure isn’t fair and it robs us of the revenue we need to be able to fund priorities like good wages for home care workers and expanded access to home care services. This session we’re ready to do the work necessary to make sure that the wealthy finally pay their fair share in Illinois and we will be lobbying in Springfield to support these efforts too.

Protecting Our Union Membership & Union Rights

This year we are expecting the Trump administration to implement a new rule at the federal level that will aim to take away our right to pay our union dues directly from our paychecks as we always have. This rule is a transparent attempt to deny home care workers our choice to join together in our union, but we will not be stopped by the Trump administration or the right-wing corporate front groups that are pushing this change, like the Illinois Policy Institute.

This attack is meant to stop us from sticking together — for higher wages, better training and better benefits, that are critical to improving our profession.

When this new rule is announced – and it could be any day now – we expect it will be challenged in court.

Whatever the outcome, home care workers will not be stopped by this attempt to silence our voices. We’ve been preparing for this change so that we can keep our union strong no matter what. Protecting our union power and our union benefits is easy with the new process we’ve started with the Home Care Fight Back Fund. Click here to sign up to protect your union membership today!

Getting Back to the Bargaining Table

We’re getting ready to return to the bargaining table now that we have a new governor and administration in place. We tried to bargain with Bruce Rauner the last four years, but he demanded a wage freeze and he wanted to eliminate our health insurance and training. There was no way we were going to allow him to take us backwards so we never reached a new agreement.

Over the next few months, we are looking forward to getting back to bargaining with a new administration that isn’t hostile to home care workers. As we mentioned earlier, with the passage of the $15 minimum wage bill, we are planning to make one of our first proposals a demand for every PA to earn $15 per hour NOW!

While we will be bargaining with a friendlier administration, we must be prepared to fight for what we deserve. No one has ever handed us anything – we’ve fought tooth and nail to get what we have today. Stay tuned for more updates and ways to get involved in our fight for a new contract that PAs deserve!

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