Home Care Workers Rally at Governor Healey’s Office Demanding Better Wages and BenefitsMarch 2, 2023
Boston, Mass. (March 1, 2023) – Personal Care Attendants (PCAs) were joined on March 1st with consumers, disability and elder advocates, and elected officials to demand the fair pay and benefits needed to end the dangerous shortage of PCAs in Massachusetts.
“I became a PCA to care for one of my best friends and have remained in the profession even after her death,” said Candejah Pink, a PCA from Springfield and member of 1199SEIU. “I love caring for others but it’s not feasible to remain in the field without a second income. Every day, it is a struggle to afford necessities like gas and food, even when deemed essential. No one should live like this; I deserve to thrive too.”
PCAs begin negotiations for a new contract with the state this month, with the priority to increase wages and benefits necessary to pay workers a living wage. The high turnover and shortage of PCAs has left elders and people with disabilities waiting for months for help, often with no assistance at all in their homes, and limited ability to care for themselves.
“The PCA program provides vital assistance to me and enables me to live the most independent life possible. Having access to a PCA and the PCA program allows me to go to work, spend time with family and friends and really live the life I feel most in control of,” said Dan Harris, community living advocate. “But I definitely have had trouble recruiting PCAs, and the shortage poses an imminent threat to my independence as well as to many others’. Too often I am left without any help at all which leads to physical struggles as well as a significant toll on my mental health.”
PCAs and their consumers headed to the State House from the Embrace Memorial to deliver a joint letter to Governor Healey’s office highlighting demands to invest in the future of home care. Among the demands, PCAs are asking for an entry wage of $25 per hour and benefits such as retirement. The PCA program is funded by MassHealth, employing over 58,000 workers across the state.
"The shortage of PCAs has reached a crisis," says Dianna Hu, BCIL chairperson and longtime user of PCA services. "I rely on my PCAs to be able to eat, sleep, work, and sustain a meaningful life in the community. Independent and dignified living for tens of thousands of people with disabilities across the state comes under threat without access to PCA services."
The home care workforce is majority women and women of color with wages that are flat, absent of growth opportunity based on experience or training. Workers said that low wages are a major contributor to a staffing crisis badly damaged by high turnover.
“We heard from the people who are suffering most from the crisis in home care – elders and people with disabilities who can’t find the help they need, and the workers who love their jobs, but need a living wage,” said Tim Foley, executive vice president of 1199SEIU.
The event was supported by Tri-Valley Elder Services, Ethos and Mystic Valley Elder Services, Greater Lynn Senior Services, Mass Senior Action Council, New England Jewish Labor Committee, Matahari, Disability Policy Consortium, Our Bodies Ourselves, Ad Lib, Stavros, Boston Center for Independent Living, Independence Associates, Southeast Center for Independent Living, Northeast Independent Living Program, Cape Organization for Rights of the Disabled, and Center for Living and Working.