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California SEIU-UHW Local Calls for Higher Wages and Mandated Training

December 22, 2013

Dave Regan, president of SEIU United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW), filed a statewide ballot initiative (pdf) on November 21 calling for better wages and mandated training for all home care workers in the state, including the family members and parents who comprise 72 percent of In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) workers.

This was the third initiative filed by SEIU-UHW.

SEIU-UHW is calling on its 65,000 IHSS home care workers to collect signatures from approximately 555,000 registered California voters for these initiatives to be placed on the November 2014 ballot.

If enacted, the initiative would require the 365,000 workers in California’s IHSS program to undergo 75 hours of training.

“Mandated training has been publicly opposed by IHSS consumer advocates for years, because it erodes consumer choice,” said Donna Calame, executive director of the San Francisco IHSS Public Authority.

Calame also notes that “a mandated curriculum of training for parents and other family members who make up the majority of IHSS workers may be overly broad — and the public and policymakers have a hard time grasping that.”

Finding revenue to pay for training hours will also put further cost pressures on a program that has faced cuts for years, said Calame.

The initiative, if passed, would also link wage increases to the state minimum wage, requiring that IHSS workers receive a dollar increase in their wage with each dollar increase in the state minimum wage. Currently, all of California’s 58 counties must pay IHSS workers at least minimum wage, but wages vary by county.

In an SEIU-UHW press release, Carol Keck, a home care worker in Stockton, where wages are low as compared to larger counties like San Francisco, said, “I have been a home care worker for 14 years and have become very close to the [SSI eligible] person I help, but I struggle to provide financially for my own needs.”

Keck earns $9.70 an hour, SEIU-UHW said.

— by Matthew Ozga

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