SEIU-UHW Files Ballot Initiative to Improve Long-Term Care for Seniors, Disabled

[November 21, 2013] SACRAMENTO, CA – California healthcare workers filed a statewide ballot initiative today to stabilize long-term care for seniors and the disabled by providing training and higher wages for home care providers, who currently receive no training and earn on average poverty level wages of less than $12,000 a year.

Taken together, the additional training and modest wage increases for home care workers will lower caregiver turnover and improve the quality of care for nearly 435,000 seniors and people with disabilities in California who rely on the state’s In Home Supportive Services Program to remain in their homes.

Members of SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW) submitted the initiative, with plans for it to appear on the general election ballot in November 2014. Approximately 555,000 signatures of registered California voters are needed to qualify the initiative for the ballot; signature gathering will begin in January 2014.

Home care workers assist people with daily tasks such as bathing, cooking, cleaning, toileting and other needs, allowing seniors and people with disabilities to live safely at home. These services save billions of dollars of taxpayer money that would otherwise be spent on far more expensive care in nursing homes or hospitals. According to the California Legislative Analyst’s Office, the state spends roughly $12,000 each year to provide care for people in their own homes, versus $51,000 if those same people were cared for in hospitals or nursing homes, saving the state billions of dollars a year.

“I have been a home care worker for 14 years and have become very close to the person I help, but I struggle to provide financially for my own needs,” said Carol Keck, a home care worker in Stockton who is paid $9.70 an hour. “This initiative would mean a better quality of life for me and improve care and stability for the 85-year-old woman I care for.”

The ballot initiative seeks to ensure the highest level of services by requiring 365,000 home care workers to get 75 hours of training that would include recognizing warning signs of health problems so they can be dealt with before they require expensive trips to the emergency room or hospitalizations that cost on average more than $25,000 each.

The initiative also provides raises to home care workers equal to the dollar amount of any increase in California’s minimum wage. For example, the state’s minimum wage is set to increase a dollar in July 2014, so home care workers would see their hourly wages go up a dollar as well.

“Home care workers provide essential services that keep people at home and allow families to stay together, but every year many home care workers are forced to quit the work they love for better paying jobs – leaving our elderly and disabled with a revolving door of caregivers,” said Dave Regan, SEIU-UHW president. “By paying these workers a higher wage, more of them will stay in the profession and hundreds of thousands of Californians can continue living safely and comfortably in their own homes.”

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