If you missed our telephone town hall meetings on Thursday, May 30 for DORS Personal Assistants, read the recap of what was discussed below.
Back Pay for PAs
In March, our union came to an agreement with the Pritzker administration over several outstanding issues that impact PAs. Under that agreement, the 48-cent raises that we won in 2017 that had been illegally withheld by former Governor Rauner were implemented on April 1, 2019. Every PA got their first paycheck with that raise on May 13 finally!
The second big victory in that agreement was ending enforcement of former Governor Bruce Rauner’s terrible overtime policy that had capped hours at 45 hours per week. Right now, PAs are free to work all the hours in your consumer’s care plan again like before the overtime policy. So, if your consumer’s care plan has hours over 40 hours per week, you will earn overtime pay for those hours and you will not be penalized.
The other big news that came out of the agreement with Governor Pritzker was the expected release of the back pay that is owed from August 2017 through March 2019. The State committed to releasing that back pay by this fall, but they’ve been working quickly so we expect that the back pay will be released this summer, possibly as early as June.
The back pay will be sent out on a separate check, and those PAs who are no longer working but are owed money will receive the back pay they are owed too. Each PA will also receive a letter that details the amount of back pay they are owed.
A little under 6,000 Personal Assistants who work overtime hours were sent letters informing them that the State made a mistake in paying some March hours and accidentally paid them double the amount of overtime pay they should have received. This is no fault of any PA or consumer – the State just made an accounting error.
As a result, we have been in conversations with the State about how repayment will happen. The agreed upon process will be that those PAs who received overpayment will have that overpayment deducted from their back pay check.
Those who are impacted will receive a letter that breaks down the back pay that they were owed, and the amount of overpayment they received in April so you will be able to see the exact amounts.
There is a very small segment of PAs that were overpaid so much that their back pay will not cover the amount. In those cases, the amount owed to the State for the overpayment above the amount of back pay they would have received will be deducted from paychecks at a rate of 15% until the overpayment is paid back.
When those who are impacted receive the notice in the mail that will break down the amount of back pay and the amount of overpayment owed, you can contact our SEIU Member Resource Center at 866-933-7348 if you think there was a mistake made.
Trump Administration’s New Rule Impacting PAs Finalized
We’ve been keeping members updated on the status of a new federal rule for over a year now and as expected, the Trump administration followed through recently and finalized this rule that will bar home care workers like Personal Assistants from paying union dues directly from their paychecks like they always have.
On May 6, the Trump administration officially released their new rule which is a transparent attempt to deny us our choice to join together in our union. Under the rule, states will no longer be allowed to take union dues or other deductions that home care workers have elected to have taken out of their paychecks.
To be very clear, for now nothing is changing. Union dues will continue to come out of paychecks as they always have until this rule is fully implemented. When the change does take place, we will notify everyone as far in advance as possible.
We believe this is a racist, sexist attack against a workforce that is mainly women and people of color that is meant to stop us from sticking together to improve our jobs and the care we provide to people with disabilities. It is outrageous that the federal government is stepping in to tell us what we can spend our hard-earned money on!
What’s important for us all to remember though, is this is not the first attack we’ve seen on our organizing rights, and WE CANNOT and WILL NOT let this latest attack get in our way.
Our union has been preparing for this change for over a year and thousands of PAs have already signed up to protect their union membership. It’s critical that we all sign up to join the Home Care Fight Back Fund so that as we head into contract bargaining we have the power we need to win raises, better benefits, and improvements that our consumers need too, like access to affordable housing and more hours of care.
We are fighting back against this rule all across the country with legal challenges. We hope that it will delay the implementation and that we will ultimately defeat this new rule in court. One of our Illinois Personal Assistants who also serves on our union’s Executive Board is a plaintiff in our SEIU lawsuit and we are confident in our legal strategy. Stay tuned for more updates on our fight to stop this rule.
We are so excited to get back to the negotiations table to win a new contract for PAs. With a new governor to bargain with and all of the recent victories we’ve had, momentum is on our side.
In the next two weeks, every Personal Assistant who is a union member will receive a contract survey in the mail. Union members are the only ones who get to weigh in on what our priorities should be so keep an eye on your mailbox and complete that survey and drop it in the mail back to us to make your voice heard – postage will be provided already.
Once we receive surveys back, we will analyze the results and that will inform our bargaining team that is made up of Personal Assistants from around the state about what is most important to fight for.
This contract isn’t just about PAs, we’re going to be looking to improve the program and our communities. Ultimately, we want to fight to create better jobs and better communities for all of us to live in. Good wages, access to the healthcare we need, affordable housing, free quality child care, these are all things that working families need and deserve so we can live good lives. And we can use our contract fight to get closer to the kind of society we all want – a society where we can all thrive.
We had an initial meet and greet session with the State in May, and next we will be setting dates to actually kick off bargaining so stay tuned.
Fair Tax Amendment Passes
SEIU members have fought for years to win a fair tax and huge progress was made this week with the General Assembly approving the Fair Tax Amendment. This paves the way for the issue to appear on the November 2020 ballot so voters can decide if it’s time for the wealthy to finally pay their fair share.
It’s just not right that a home care worker pays the same flat income tax rate that a millionaire CEO does in Illinois.
Under the current Fair Tax proposal, 97% of Illinoisans will get a tax break. Those who earn $250,000 per year or more, will be asked to pay more since they earn more.
Illinois is one of only 9 states in our country that still has a regressive, flat income tax that punishes low wage and middle class households. It’s time we correct this inequity and thanks to our union, our allies, and Governor Pritzker and the General Assembly, we are one step closer to enacting a fair income tax structure in Illinois.
Between now and Election Day in November 2020, we have our work cut out for us. The wealthy in Illinois and the front groups that they fund like the Illinois Policy Institute are already twisting the truth about the Fair Tax and trying to trick the people of Illinois into voting no.
It’ll be up to us and our allies to make sure we spread the truth and help get as many voters as possible out to the polls to support the Fair Tax next year.