NUHW wins breakthrough homecare wage protection in Sacramento

June 8th, 2009

Sacramento County Supervisor
Roger Dickinson
“I thank the National Union of Healthcare Workers for their work to achieve this solution to save IHSS wages and benefits. I believe Sacramento County is ready to protect vital services for seniors and people with disabilities, as well as providers’ wages, with no added cost to the budget.”

Sacramento County Supervisor Roger Dickinson joined homecare providers and advocates today in announcing a breakthrough victory to protect homecare services in Sacramento County. At Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) Public Authority staff will recommend a budget package to preserve homecare providers’ wages at $10.40 per hour with all current health benefits.

Video: Frances Gracechild of Resources for Independent Living

The proposal is the result of weeks of grassroots advocacy by the National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) to maintain and improve wages and benefits for homecare providers using federal stimulus funds, and the Board of Supervisors is expected to approve it in a vote on Tuesday. This comes on the heels of a victory last week by NUHW in San Francisco, where Mayor Gavin Newsom’s administration proposed a budget for 2009-10 that uses a costing model proposed by NUHW to maintain San Francisco County providers’ wages at $11.54 per hour.

IHSS is a homecare service funded jointly by state, county, and federal funds that allows frail seniors and people with disabilities to live with dignity in their own homes, rather than in more expensive institutions. The funding solution proposed by NUHW allows counties to maintain or raise homecare providers’ wages and benefits despite Gov. Schwarzenegger’s devastating cuts to state homecare funding—largely by back-filling the loss of state funds with additional federal Medicaid funds available to counties through the Obama administration’s economic stimulus package.

Frances Gracechild, Executive Director of Sacramento-based disability advocacy group Resources for Independent Living, said the wage protection would also protect the quality of care delivered to residents.

“The workers and leaders of NUHW have raised wages for providers in Sacramento and around the state, and shown that when providers earn livable wages and benefits they can provide consistent, higher-quality care,” Gracechild said. “NUHW’s victories to protect homecare services in Sacramento and San Francisco are great news for all of us who rely on the vital care homecare workers provide.”

Bill Camp, Executive Secretary of the Sacramento Central Labor Council, called NUHW’s advocacy proof of the strength of the 18,000 homecare workers in Sacramento County.

“The leaders of NUHW were so crucial in helping homecare providers win their union in the first place,” Camp said. “And today they are helping homecare workers win again, and protect their wages and their jobs even in a time of economic turmoil. NUHW and Sacramento County are delivering economic security for providers in Sacramento and hope for providers across the state.”

Ella Raiford, a Sacramento homecare provider and elected leader of NUHW, said uniting with other healthcare workers gave homecare providers the voice they needed to protect their wages.

“Our victory shows that we can protect our wages when we’re united with Kaiser workers and hospital workers in a strong, democratic union,” Raiford said. “That union is NUHW. At the same time SEIU-UHW is spending millions trying to divide us, we’ve been meeting with Supervisors and the Public Authority to advance a real plan to preserve funding.”

NUHW’s recommendations to protect and improve homecare services have detailed the specific changes in IHSS funding that would result from the combination of state cuts and federal enhancements, and explained how each county could maintain and improve workers’ wages and benefits at no additional cost.

Sacramento IHSS Public Authority proposal (PDF)
NUHW memo to Sacramento County (PDF)
NUHW memo to San Francisco County (PDF)
NUHW memo to Fresno County (PDF)