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Butte County caregivers fight for a raise—and respect

Over 6,000 IHSS home care providers in Butte County have gone without a new contract for five years—but we’ve gone even longer without respect. The Butte County Board of Supervisors has been dragging its heels on addressing the needs of IHSS providers, refusing to come through with a needed pay raise for those of us who care for Butte County’s low-income seniors and people with disabilities.

Some of the county supervisors have even taken the insulting position that, since many providers are family members of our clients, we should feel lucky we are getting paid at all.

“I don’t think they understand that this is not a babysitting job,” said Kesha Haynie, an in-home care provider who lives in Magalia. “We are working all the time.”

All of the hard work that providers like Kesha do saves Butte County money – and allows our most vulnerable residents to avoid institutional care, which can cost as much as five times more than care provided through IHSS.

Butte County needs to face that fact that, like the rest of California and the nation, we are on the verge of a long-term care crisis. As our population ages the need for long-term care will skyrocket, and counties need to retain the care workers they have while making the job more attractive to prospective caregivers. According to a new report by the UC Berkeley Labor Center, the only way to do that is to raise caregiver wages.

Yet Butte County wants to keep caregivers at minimum wage, which is not enough to live on. Fifty-six percent of Butte County’s home care providers receive some sort of public assistance. Many of us, like Kesha, work multiple jobs.

“I have to work two other jobs to make ends meet,” she said. “If we got paid enough, caregivers wouldn’t have to work outside of caregiving.”

IHSS provider Kesha Haynie is one of many fighting for a living wage caregivers in Butte County.

Not only would supporting Butte County caregivers with a pay raise make fiscal sense because it would limit nursing care and public assistance payments, but more money in caregivers’ pockets means more money in the Butte County economy. It’s estimated that an investment of just $1 per hour in IHSS provider wages in Butte county would generate over five million dollars in increased economic activity in our communities. And, because IHSS program costs are covered by state and federal funds and there is a state funding source to reimburse the county’s share of cost, there’s no good excuse not to give us the pay raise we so desperately need.

There was one raise, however, that the Butte County Board of Supervisors had no problem approving: Their own. They approved a 1.36 percent raise for themselves in February of this year.

“I think a good salary is important to bring people in from all walks of life,” Supervisor Steve Lambert said at the time.

UDW members in Butte County agree! Good pay is the only way to ensure a good work force of caregivers.

Join us on Tuesday, November 14 at 9 a.m. outside the County Board of Supervisors office, 25 County Center Drive, Suite 205, Oroville, CA 95965, as we rally to demand better for Butte County’s caregivers and the seniors and disabilities we care for. Call 530-894-2702 to learn more and RSVP. We will show them that caregivers in Butte County won’t be ignored anymore.