FEDERAL WAY, Wash. - After two months of bargaining, home-care workers
and the State of Washington are no closer to a new contract agreement.
Members of SEIU Local 775 provide in-home services to elderly,
low-income Washingtonians and people with disabilities. The workers say
their wages have been frozen for two years, and the state is now asking
them to pay more for health insurance.
Karen Washington, Spokane, a home-care worker, is on the bargaining
team. She says she makes just over $10 an hour - and it's not enough to
support a family.
"We're once again getting closer and closer to being minimum-wage
workers. Meanwhile, we do very extensive care, and we save the state a
lot of money because we can keep people in their homes rather than in
SEIU represents 38,000 home-care workers. Washington points out
that many of them would qualify for the same assistance programs that
their low-income clients receive. So far, she says, the mood at the
bargaining table has been tense.
"We feel like we've let them balance the budget of the state on our
backs quite long enough. That's where the mood is with the workers, and I
know that they feel it on the other side of the table. It's not hostile
in any way, but they know we're serious."
The two sides will be at the bargaining table again on July 6. State
negotiators said they wanted to wait until a new revenue forecast came
out mid-June to make their next offer. That forecast shows tax
collections are down from previous predictions in February.