1199 SEIU took their issues about fair pay for homecare workers public this week.
Using television, digital and radio ads, the union leaders have made the push statewide to gain support for an increase in homecare worker pay seeking more money in the soon-to-be-revealed 2022-2023 state budget.
They’re calling for a permanent increase and have spent seven figures in ad money to get their point across.
Rona Shapiro, executive vice president of 1199 SEIU’s homecare division, stated that unions that represent frontline employees during the pandemic have the right and the leverage to push for more pay.
“This campaign is a chance for patients, family members, labor leaders and advocates to stand together with homecare workers, and call for a sustainable and permanent pay raise,” said Shapiro. “Too many of our workers have reached a breaking point where they have to choose between barely scraping by to do a job they love or leaving the profession altogether. We can’t afford to lose one more homecare worker to low wages. We cannot afford to be silent.”
The union has already released several ads online with each focusing on a homecare worker or patient extolling the virtues of the job.
“Today, I’m able to stay in my home because of home care,” said an elderly woman named Sally in one of the ads. “Right now, there’s a shortage of home healthcare workers and that’s because they don’t have a decent hourly wage.”
“As a homecare worker, I look after my clients in their homes,” said homecare worker Sandra Diaz in another ad. “Then I come home to look after my son and elderly father.
“With the pandemic it’s scary, but I still have to work. I have bills to pay,” Diaz said.
According to the language of the Fair Pay For Home Care Act (Senate Bill S5374A), sponsored by State Sen. Rachel May and co-sponsored by senators Joseph P. Addabbo Jr., Fred Akshar and Alessandra Biaggi, it “enacts provisions to provide minimum wages for home care aides; requires at least 150% of minimum wage or other set minimum; directs the commissioner of health to set regional minimum rates of reimbursement for homecare aides under Medicaid and managed care plans.”
The bill would pay homecare workers a living wage of at least $22.50 an hour. That is $10 to $12 more than the average homecare workers make now, according to 1199 SEIU officials. Working with the elderly and the disabled took on a new significance when the COVID-19 pandemic shut the city down. Nurses, doctors, subway workers, doorpeople and homecare workers alike were still expected to head to their jobs. They were labeled heroes by the public and now want to be treated as such.
“Home healthcare is not an easy job. The commute is difficult—whether it snows or there’s sunshine, you have to be there. Without us, without me, the person cannot survive for the day,” stated worker Lilleth Clacken. “We were doing this work before the pandemic. We will be doing this work after the pandemic. So we ask the governor and Albany to raise our wages permanently.