The Work We Do

March 30, 2017

Staten Island member Vishally Ahmed was a leader in the Fight For $15: “We have to make sure we keep this progress going.”

Home Health Aide Vishally Ahmed needed a job. She was newly single and had two kids to support. Her mother was working in home care at the time and suggested to Ahmed that she give it a try—the hours were flexible and the work suited her during a stressful period in her life. That was 10 years ago. Today Ahmed is a delegate and leader among the home health aides at Staten Island’s Stella Orton Agency.

Ahmed with her client Sevret Sausto, who is 83.

“I have an 83-yearold grandmother, so I understand that it takes patience to take care of a client,” she says. “Doing this work you think about your own family when you walk into a house and how you have to have respect for the person you care for.”

Ahmed is often frustrated with society’s image of homecare workers. “A lot of people don’t understand what we do. They think we’re babysitters. We are alone with our clients all day long.”

1. “I became a delegate to help members learn more about our benefits and what we can gain when we fight for our rights,” she says. “I like helping people out. It can be challenging, but you have to push people even if they don’t want to go out and fight for themselves.”

2. “The raise we got in December to $11.00 is a start. I’m thankful for what we get now. I remember doing this work for $9.00 an hour. So now we have to keep fighting to improve things—like for better benefits. Our paycheck is important, but so are our benefits.”

3. Ms. Sausto does not speak much English. Ahmed knows little Spanish, yet they still communicate effectively— sometimes with help from Sausto’s family. “It changes you a lot when you’ve bonded with a person. When you have to walk away from them at the end of the day, you feel bad,” says Ahmed “You think about them, and you pray that they’ll be okay until you return.”

4. “The Fight For $15 is important because there are a lot of women out there who need to keep this progress going. I’m lucky. I have a husband now, but many women are on their own and responsible for their families,” she says. “I went to the Women’s March to show that we deserve our rights and fair pay because we work hard.”

1199 Magazine, Jan/Feb 2017