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Wash. State Direct-Care Workers Achieve Big Wage and Hour Victories

July 9, 2015

Direct-care workers in Washington State have earned significant legislative victories pertaining to wages, benefits, and staffing hours.

Wages and Retirement Benefits

With just 20 minutes to spare on the night of June 30, Gov. Jay Inslee (D) signed a two-year state budget into law, narrowly averting a partial government shutdown.

The budget includes funding for a new contract with the state’s 33,000 home care workers who provide consumer-directed care for elders and people with disabilities, a June 30 SEIU 775 statement said.

By the time the two-year budget expires, the 33,000 home care workers will earn up to $14/hour in Washington State. An additional 12,000 workers, employed by private agencies but paid through Medicaid, will see a similar wage hike.

The budget also includes, for the first time ever, a dedicated retirement fund for home care workers. The state will pay 23 cents per hour worked into a privately managed trust fund, the SEIU statement said.

“Winning a retirement benefit is a game changer for caregivers and the long-term care workforce,” said SEIU 775 Secretary-Treasurer Adam Glickman, who led negotiations with the state on the contract.

“This will help stabilize and increase the workforce as we prepare for a huge increase in the senior population over the next few decades,” he added.

Nursing Home Staffing

Also on June 30, Inslee signed a bill (pictured aboverequiring nursing homes to provide 3.4 daily hours of direct care for each resident.

House Bill 1274 (pdf) establishes that nursing homes must begin to comply with the new staffing standard by July 1, 2016. Registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, and certified nursing assistants (CNAs) are all qualified to provide direct care under the terms of the law.

When it takes effect, Washington’s new minimum staffing level will be among the highest in the country, according to a June 30 statement from SEIU 775.SEIU 775, which represents CNAs in 30 Washington nursing homes, supported the passage of H.B. 1274.

The law states that the legislature intends to eventually “increase the minimum staffing standard to 4.1 hours per resident day of direct care,” but “only if funding is provided explicitly” to pay for the higher requirement.

Long-Term Living reported on July 1 that the new law was inspired by a 2014 investigative report by the Center for Public Integrity, which found that more than 80 percent of nursing homes nationwide inaccurately self-report inflated staffing data to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in order to get better star ratings on the federal Nursing Home Compare tool.

— by Matthew Ozga

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