Home Care Members Win Permanent Wage IncreaseApril 19, 2022
Lawmakers in New York hear our demands.
1199SEIU home care members and their community allies across New York State were celebrating a victory in early April when Governor Kathy Hochul and legislative leaders Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins announced that provision for a permanent pay increase would be included in the state budget.
Extra cash was also allocated to give financially insecure safety net hospitals the underpinning they need to look after the state most vulnerable citizens.
For frontline home care members in New York, winning a $3/hr increase over minimum wage will not only have a significant impact on their lives, but it also lays the groundwork for similar political campaigns in other states.
By October 2023, NY home care workers will see their pay increase by more than $500 a month on a 40- hour week.
On hearing that Governor Hochul had responded to members demands made in their Fair Pay for Home Care campaign, Novelette Cross-Smith, 1199SEIU homecare worker with 22 years of service at People Care in Manhattan, NY, said: “Today marks the start of a new chapter for homecare workers like me, and I am thrilled to be receiving a raise that will allow me to better support my family. We take so much pride in our jobs and know our importance in our clients’ lives; we are thankful to finally be getting the recognition that our line of work is essential and deserving of decent compensation.”
Home care workers from all over NYS boarded buses to Albany throughout the budget debate to press their case. In most instances, that meant traveling for at least five hours round trip, often in freezing weather.
They joined allies from the disability community and advocates for senior citizens, who understand that reliable home care services depend on fair wages for home care workers.
Taking action to ensure our elected representatives do the right thing for working people has been one of the hallmarks of 1199 since the early days. Back in 1963, a combination of relentless lobbying, expert public relations and strong member unity convinced Nelson Rockefeller, the then Governor of New York to sign a law granting collective bargaining rights to voluntary hospitals in New York City.
Now nearly 60 years later, home care members have formed their own united force to ensure that tax money collected to protect the most vulnerable in society, actually does the job it was intended to do. Rallying, face-to-face lobbying of elected representatives and a significant investment in advertising to generate statewide pressure, all combined to make the Fair Pay for Home Care campaign a success.
“I’m so thankful to hear that legislative leaders took up our cause and the Governor decided to support us,” said Salina Person, Home Health Aide, Rochester, NY, “We work really hard and care a whole lot. We just need to be able to support ourselves so that we can continue this work that is so important.”It is not just their own interests that members were fighting for – but also for the needs of their clients and for those who are not able to access help.
As the 1199 Magazine goes to press, almost 17 per cent of home care jobs in NYS remain unfilled. With the high turnover of caregivers that was mainly caused by low wages, researchers were estimating that by 2028 the state would have had a deficit of nearly one million home care positions.
“Right now, there is a shortage of home care workers. Homecare workers are disappearing because they simply cannot afford to do the work. It's a financial challenge for us to pay rent, provide food for our family, and the multiple trains and bus fares just to get to work,” explains Iris Smith, a home care member who works at the Premier agency in Brooklyn. “Home care workers are frontline essential workers,” she adds, “We provide care that makes it possible for seniors and the disabled to maintain their independence, dignity, and respect in their homes in a safe environment where they can thrive.”
1199 Magazine | March / April 2022