Issued August 06, 2015
LOS ANGELES— Home care workers and people who rely on home care met Thursday (August 6, 2015) in Los Angeles with former Secretary of State and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. These providers—including SEIU members—and consumers talked about how they have joined together with a focus on providing quality home care that allows older Americans and people with disabilities to live at home with dignity.
Some 19 million seniors need long term care supports and services, and that number is set to nearly double by 2050. But only about 2 million people make up the workforce available to care for these older Americans—and the gap is growing; more than 10,000 Americans turn 65 every day. Across the country, home care workers are called upon to care for older Americans and people with disabilities, even as—in most cases—they work extraordinarily long hours for low pay with few or no benefits. Consumers and their families, meanwhile, struggle to afford the care they need in the settings they choose.
On a day when some presidential candidates were set to take to a debate stage and reveal how out-of-touch they are with issues that matter to working families, the focus in Los Angeles was raising wages and ensuring quality care.
Clinton heard from consumers as well as both SEIU members and non-union home care workers, many from Los Angeles and Southern California, others from all corners of the country.
“The best part of my job is providing services to those in need in the comfort of their home,” said Regina Sutton, a home care worker from Los Angeles who took part in the discussion. “We need to ensure that these jobs pay living wages and that the people who need our services can afford them.”
“I depend on Regina’s help to do things I have difficulty doing on my own now: getting dressed, moving around the house and doing basic chores,” said Karen Johnson, also of Los Angeles, whom Sutton cares for during the day. “I don’t know what I would do without her, and there are millions more like me.”
To arrange a post-event interview with a participant, contact Beau Boughamer, 202/765-9143 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
BACKGROUND ON PARTICIPANTS
Union home care workers
Regina Sutton and Karen Johnson of Los Angeles are a home care worker and consumer pair. Sutton, a SEIU Local 2015 (formerly ULTCW) member, has provided care for Johnson for 7 years. The pair participated in a class funded by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) grant and offered by the California Long-Term Care Education Center. Sutton and Johnson want all home care workers and consumers to have access to the training and support that has made their relationship so strong.
Kindalay Cummings-Akers of Springfield, Mass., cares for an elderly couple, even though she’s only paid for the husband’s care. His wife doesn’t have state-paid services, so Cummings-Akers volunteers her time. Cummings-Akers knows what can happen when workers come together for higher wages and a stronger workforce -- home care workers united in 1199SEIU-UHE Massachusetts won $15 per hour in June.
Sumer Spika of Minneapolis helped win a union for home care workers in Minnesota last year and says the biggest victory is paid time off. When Spika had a cesarean section during the birth of her last child, she had to go back to work a week later. She has a new perspective on home care as her husband, who has multiple sclerosis, now needs a home care worker. Spika says home care is a blessing for her family.
Susie Young of Spokane, Wash., has been a home care worker for 30 years. Since she helped workers at her agency unite in SEIU in 2003, Young has dedicated herself to the fight to win dignity and respect for home care workers and quality care for consumers. With her union, she has worked with the legislature and Governor in Washington state to build strong guidelines and an infrastructure for home care, including training for every home care worker and good benefits to create a stable, quality workforce.
Nonunion home care workers
Lizabeth Bonilla of Las Vegas has been a home care worker for 42 years. For the last 22 years, she’s made $10 an hour, without a single raise. As she gets ready to turn 60 herself, Bonilla wonders where her “golden years” are and what will happen when she needs care. Bonilla says the biggest change she’s seen in home care over the last four decades is the number of seniors who are poor, hungry and in need of care. She’s seen clients who don’t have enough to eat, who are lying on soiled sheets when she arrives and who have nobody else.
Artheta Peters of Cleveland has worked in the home care industry for nearly 14 years, but makes just $8 — less than state minimum wage — and has never received a raise. The agency she works for provides no retirement plan, no paid vacation and no sick leave. Peters is dedicated to helping others, though it means sacrifices for her family. She is a single mother and doesn’t make enough as a home care worker to pay for a tutor or after-school programs or to send her kids to summer camp.
Latonya Allen of Atlanta has been a home care worker for three years. She makes just $9 an hour and does not have vacation or sick pay. Allen goes the extra mile for her client because as a mom whose daughter relies on home care, she knows how special that relationship is from both sides. Last year, Allen joined a Fight for $15 national day of action with fast food workers in her hometown and is now a leader in the Home Care Fight for $15.