It all started when I was passing Kathy Kessinger’s office and she asked, “Rene, would you like to do some volunteer work for a couple of days?”
On his 99th birthday, I went to visit Vincent James Montesano. Linda Allen, a homecare provider, invited us to Mr. Montesano’s apartment in downtown Los Angeles. Linda has been caring for Mr. Montesano for nine years and I was overwhelmed by all the wonderful work that she provided for Vincent.
HOMECARE WORKERS TAKE A SOMBER STAND AGAINST POVERTY-LEVEL WAGES AND PREVAILING LACK OF HEALTHCARE AT CANDLELIGHT VIGIL
SAN BERNARDINO, CA (November 26, 2008) – San Bernardino County In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) workers held a candlelight vigil at the County Board of Supervisors building to highlight the dire situations surrounding workers and those they care for. The vigil is the result of the County’s lack of commitment in recent contract negotiations to protect the program by not taking advantage of available State funding for increased wages and benefits.
Presided by the Reverend Paula Cripps, Regional Director of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice for the Inland Empire (CLUE), the vigil presented an opportunity for workers and homecare recipients to share their personal stories of what the homecare program means to them and the struggles associated with being a low-wage worker.
”Being a provider is a financial struggle,” says IHSS worker Maria Rinallo, who cares for her disabled son. “It’s hard to make ends meet. That is why we are asking the County to approve wages and benefits that reflect the very important work we do and will lift workers out of poverty.”
Currently in negotiations with County officials, San Bernardino homecare workers earn just $9.25 an hour, receive no vacation time or sick leave, and most go without health benefits.
“The State is willing to reimburse the county for wages up to $11.50 an hour,” explained Shirley Taylor, a homecare worker of over thirty years who currently sits on the bargaining committee. “Paying homecare workers anything less than $11.50 an hour is leaving money on the table–money that could be spent in local shops and helping our local economy.
Federal, State and County governments fund the IHSS program, otherwise known as ‘homecare’. Through realignment funds offered by the State of California, counties are refunded approximately 95 percent of its share up to $11.50 an hour and $0.60 per hour per worker toward healthcare. California’s IHSS program is a national model for providing quality care to seniors and people with disabilities while saving taxpayers money since homecare costs up to seven times less than alternative institutional care.
“Providing IHSS workers with livable wages is a win-win-win-win situation. Care recipients win since higher wages stabilize the workforce, care providers win because they don’t have to choose between paying their rent and putting food on the table, the County wins because nearly all of their expenses are refunded by the State, and local residents win as it puts more money into our economy.”
SEIU Local 6434-The United Long-term Care workers Union represents over 160,000 homecare and nursing home workers in ten counties throughout California.
Candlelight Vigil in San Bernardino:
Fifty ULTCW members walked from the San Bernardino Union
Offices to the Board of Supervisors’ Building on Thanksgiving Eve to participate in a candlelight vigil.
A small shrine of caregiver photographs combined with those of thankful consumers set the foundation for the event as Caregivers and consumers alike gathered to give support to one another—for the love and very special relationships found between caregivers and their consumers.
The vigil itself was lead by the Rev Paula Cripps, the Regional Director of Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE) for the Inland Empire. Several members added individual prayers, braving the weather to give words and thoughts of thanks to one another.
Another vigil is scheduled for the coming week in Rancho Cucamonga. We encourage all members and consumers to attend, showing their support and thanks for one another in this time of turmoil for so many caregivers.
Official Press Release follows:
An African American, 47-year-old Barack Obama radically changed the history of the United States on Tuesday, November 4, 2008 at 9 p.m. On this day, he was declared President of the most powerful country in the world.
He overwhelmingly won this election with 70 % of the Latino vote. After a final hour of the electoral process and with more than 365 electoral votes, McCain called Obama to congratulate him and to recognize his defeat.
For those of you who could not attend, our rallies just keep getting better!
Our rally in December brought even more people together. We had about 80 people this time. We also had a different emphasis. When it came our turn to speak, we presented the supervisors with a giant facsimile check for $59 million dollars.
Members of SEIU united on a trip to Sacramento where we protested against the Governor’s proposed budget cuts. We also spoke with legislators, including Mary Hayashi and her Chief of Staff, Mr. Jasperson.
The Chief of Staff informed us that they needed 54 votes to pass a tax revenue bill. They also needed the Republicans to vote for tax revenues and also to vote against the Governor’s proposed budget cuts to long term care programs. There is a 28 billion dollar deficit, and the money to fill it should not be coming from the IHSS program.
On November 26th, a candle light vigil was held in San Bernardino. Homecare workers and union members met at the San Bernardino union office on Arrowhead Avenue. At 4 p.m. we all walked down to the county offices to fight for our new contract and healthcare coverage.