SEATTLE - It's time to play catch-up with wages and benefits for home-care workers in Washington. That's the view of their union, as its representatives sit down with state negotiators for the latest round of contract talks - and they're asking for a raise. Home-care workers, numbering some 30,000 in the state, get just over $10 an hour for helping people with personal care and chores, so they can stay in their homes rather than going into nursing homes. The workers are asking for $12.55 an hour.
Adam Glickman, who heads the bargaining team for SEIU Local 775, says home-care workers' hours have been cut since the recession, and their wages have been frozen since 2008.
"Obviously, we think $12.55 is a reasonable start, to bring workers back up to where they were three or four years ago, before the recession hit, before all these state budget cuts, before their wages were frozen for three years."
He describes the mood at the bargaining table so far as "constructive." But even if the state agrees to the higher hourly wage, home-care workers would still make about $15,000 a year. He says that makes it tough to attract and retain people.
"The turnover is very high. We need to take some steps to lift this work force out of poverty; to stabilize this work force and to grow this work force, in order to ensure that, as the baby boomers retire, there's someone to take care of them."
Glickman points out that home-care workers paid by the state don't get paid sick days or holidays and have no retirement plan. They are asking that the state consider those benefits in the new contract as well. They do have health insurance, although only the workers themselves are eligible for it, not their families.
The two sides have until October 1 to reach an agreement.