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UDWA News Post

Raising Up IHSS


Our union was formed 40 years ago with a simple yet important vision: seniors and people with disabilities deserve to live with dignity in their own homes and communities, and the caregivers who love and care for them deserve respect and a living wage.

In bargaining, IHSS providers who are members of the UDW bargaining team go head-to-head with the county boards of supervisors, who decide our pay. And most of the time, boards refuse to recognize the value of what we do for our clients and our communities. Some of them see us as “babysitters,” while others think we should be doing this work for free.

As a workforce made up mostly of women and people of color, we are sick and tired of being devalued and disrespected. That’s why we are joining together to say enough of the low pay—we demand respect now. And in many counties, it’s working.

In Riverside County, where we just won a raise and eliminated the health care wait list for 1,500 members, we moved our board of supervisors to act by bringing our most powerful tool: our stories.

April Kwiatkowski described what it is like to care for her boyfriend’s grandmother, who has Alzheimer’s and a broken back. “A lot of nights, I get up in the middle of the night to tend to her as she screams out in pain. I gave up a pretty good job to be able to care for her [but we] don’t want her in a home, which we all know is a death sentence.”

A living wage for a single adult in California is $14.61—Yet IHSS providers make just $12.44 per hour on average, and most of us have families to take care of.

Though UDW members have already won new contracts and tentative agreements in Riverside, Mono, Orange, Imperial, and Santa Barbara counties this year, 14 of our counties still do not have current contracts. So we’re coming together and turning up the heat.

In Butte County, which was ravaged by the Camp Fire last year, IHSS providers have been without a contract for six years.

“IHSS providers are suffering at your hands, denying us wages,” said Carnella Marks, caregiver and Butte County UDW representative, at a recent board of supervisors meeting. “You took an oath to meet the needs of elders in this community. I urge you to get up out of your seat [and] advocate for funding for this program.”

But it’s not just providers and our families who suffer when caregiver pay is too low. In Stanislaus County the caseload is so big, and the number of caregivers so few, that seniors and people with disabilities are dying before they are able to access the care they so desperately need. And yet, the board still doesn’t want to make caregiving a job we can afford to have.

This needs to change now.

If you’ve been looking for a way to make a difference for yourself, your client and your family, now is the time. If you live in one of the counties that is currently in bargaining, call your local office and find out how to get involved.