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IHSS Workers in Sonoma County Begin Push for $15/Hour Wage

September 3, 2015

California home care workers who provide care through the state’s In-Home Supportive Program (IHSS) are lobbying for higher wages in Sonoma County, continuing an emerging county-by-county strategy for improving their pay.

The 4,500 Sonoma County IHSS workers, who are unionized through Service Employees International Union Healthcare Workers-West, are currently involved in contract negotiations with the county. They have called on the county to raise their wages from their current rate of $11.65/hour to $15.

The county, however, has thus far only offered a 20-cent wage increase, to be phased in gradually over four years: a 10-cent increase in 2017 and another 10-cent increase in 2019.

Marty Bennett, co-chair of the nonprofit advocacy group North Bay Jobs with Justice (NBJJ) called the offer “completely unacceptable” at an August 29 hearing organized by the NBJJ Workers’ Rights Board.

“We want to make invisible workers visible and let the [county] board of supervisors know that home care workers deserve $15 per hour,” Bennett added.

During the hearing, IHSS workers testified for more than two hours about the hard choices many of them must face due to their low wages.

“On the wages we’re making, I have to decide: This month, do I pay the electric bill or do I feed my family?” said IHSS worker Bonita Muñoz, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reported on August 29.

The Press Democrat also reported that the Workers’ Rights Board plans to take a set of seven recommendations on IHSS wages to the county board of supervisors at their November meeting. In addition to a $15/hour wage, the board recommends instituting health benefits for full-time workers and offering better training opportunities.

Last month, Voice of OC reported that IHSS workers in Orange County were attending meetings of their county’s board of supervisors to urge lawmakers to raise their wages.

— by Matthew Ozga

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