Fair Pay For Home Care Campaign

March 1, 2022

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Members launch lobbying effort aimed at New York State lawmakers.

Home care workers have always been essential— they provide the necessary care that allows seniors and people with disabilities to live independently—and with dignity in their own homes.

During the pandemic, 1199SEIU home care members have been stretched to their limits more than ever before.

“We’re working so hard for a little bit of money,” says Beverley Campbell, a home health member with People Care. “We have to pay rent, food, gas and train fare. We have to make sure we are mentally good; we have to take care of all kinds of people, with all kinds of sicknesses and illnesses, and then find a way to take care of ourselves as well. It’s a lot.”

That’s why Union home care members are joining together to tackle the problem at its source. Alongside the rest of their 1199SEIU family and community allies, they have launched the Fair Pay in Home Care campaign. Using tools such as virtual lobby visits and a postcard campaign, members are pressing New York State (NYS) lawmakers in Albany to ensure all home care workers can receive a family-sustaining living wage, pay for all hours worked, guaranteed hours of work to maintain a steady income, and benefits including paid time off.

The pandemic has made such a campaign more urgent than ever. NYS is facing an extreme shortage of these essential workers, which is in turn is creating a healthcare crisis. A recent study by the City University of New York (CUNY) estimates that 17% of home care jobs are currently unfilled and more than 26,000 new workers need to be hired annually just to keep up with demand. It is precisely the unfair wages and unstable work that have created a high turnover and difficulty attracting new workers.

Tracey Ann Patterson, a Home Health Aide with the Care at Home agency in Queens, says, “Ever since the pandemic, everything has increased – prices have doubled or tripled on gas, food, and a lot of other things. How do you feed your family? How do you buy a MetroCard? “I had to cash out my 40 hours of personal time just to cover my bills”. I want to be a home care worker. I love my job, but I also need to take care of my children. I should be able to do this and survive. Not just survive—live!”

Not only is the pay inadequate but given the changing needs of the people they serve, home care workers often need to take on multiple shifts with different clients, many times traveling two to four hours to go from case to case.

This takes an unbearable toll not only on the workers, but also on those they care for. Right now, because of the extreme shortage, tens of thousands of New Yorkers can’t get the care they need at home. For many of them, their homecare worker is a lifeline. Maria Cantillo, Home Care Aide at Personal Touch, says, “We have to get to our clients to keep them safe. Who is going to be there to help them? One time when the roads were closed, I couldn’t get to my clients, and I worried something would happen to them. I need to get there to make sure they continue to live."

1199 Magazine: January - February 2022