PCAs Settle New Contract, Securing Pathway to $15/hour!

May 16, 2016

Personal Care Attendants from 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East and the Baker-Polito Administration will sign a new three-year contract that creates a pathway to $15/hour for the state’s 35,000 Personal Care Attendants (PCA).

The contract includes a .44 cent raise on July 1 and ensures a wage of $15/hour in 2018. It also includes a $200,000 annual increase in funds available for education and training.

“Hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts residents depend on Personal Care Attendants to provide quality care, giving seniors and people with disabilities across the Commonwealth the opportunity to stay in their home,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “This new contract ensures that the 35,000 men and women who perform this important work have appropriate compensation and increased funding for education.”

Massachusetts is home to more than one million seniors and almost 500,000 adults living with a disability. Administered through MassHealth, the Massachusetts PCA program is a cost-efficient and effective initiative that enables elders and people with disabilities to live at home independently, safely and with dignity.

“We’re incredibly proud that Massachusetts continues to be a leader in the Fight for $15,” said Tyrék D. Lee, Sr., Executive Vice President of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East. “We applaud the Baker-Polito Administration for their leadership and commitment to fair wages for 35,000 Personal Care Attendants and superb care for the tens of thousands of Massachusetts seniors and people with disabilities who rely on them every day to live the independent and dignified lives they deserve. Our Commonwealth is home to a growing number of men and women who depend on home care services. This new contract ensures a professional workforce and a robust education and training program so that residents can access quality care at home.”

Under the new contract, PCAs will see a .44 cent wage increase to $14.12/hour on July 1. That wage will increase to $14.56/hour in 2017 and to $15/hour in July 2018. The new three-year contract finalizes an agreement reached last year between the Baker-Polito Administration and Massachusetts’ PCAs to guarantee a $15/hour wage in 2018. Last year, the Baker-Polito Administration and workers agreed to a one-year contract extension, with PCAs receiving an immediate .30 cent raise.

The Baker-Polito Administration and workers also reached agreement on a $200,000 annual increase to the 1199SEIU Training and Upgrading Fund. Founded in 2006, the 1199SEIU Training and Upgrading Fund is a joint labor-management partnership between 1199SEIU and local participating health providers that has helped thousands of workers to enroll in post-secondary certificate or degree programs.

Other contract provisions include ongoing discussions regarding expanding the PCA role as Massachusetts plans for a restructured health care system, an improved process to address issues of late and non-payment for PCAs and better access to safety supplies including gloves and masks. PCAs will also have the opportunity to meet and discuss the need for a further benefit that provides additional incentives for ongoing service in the PCA program.

“This victory recognizes the tens of thousands of Massachusetts PCAs who work hard every day to help seniors and people with disabilities across the Commonwealth,” said Lesbia Vidot of Holyoke who has worked as a PCA for eight years and participated in contract negotiations. “PCAs are united in our dedication to provide quality care so that residents can live at home with dignity, and we’re honored that the Baker-Polito Administration is committed to quality wages and dignity in the workplace for each of us.”

“This incredible step means that tens of thousands of PCAs who were struggling to get by will soon have a dignified living wage,” said Olivia Richard of Boston. “I’m proud to say that my Personal Care Attendants are members of my family and the dedication and care they have given to me over the past few years is priceless. I’m overjoyed that they will finally be paid quality wages representative of the terrific care they continue to provide.”

The PCAs’ journey began in 2006 when they banded together with senior and disability advocates to pass legislation giving PCAs the right to form a union – a right they previously had been denied because of an obscure technicality in state law.

After passing the Quality Home Care Workforce Act to win that right and introduce other improvements to the home care delivery system in 2007, the PCAs voted to join 1199SEIU in 2008 through the largest union election in the history of New England. 1199SEIU is the fastest-growing and most politically active union in Massachusetts.

Prior to the legislative and organizing campaigns, PCA wages had stagnated for years at $10.84 per hour. In a series of contracts since forming their union and through several major mobilizations, rallies, and public campaigns, the PCAs achieved a wage of $13.68 on July 1, 2015.