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Massachusetts Direct-Care Workers Rally for Pay Increase

April 5, 2012

Workers gather in Mass. State House in Boston

Approximately 1,000 direct-care workers employed by state and private human services agencies throughout Massachusetts rallied for better wages at the State House on April 2.

The direct-care workers earn an average of $12 per hour and have not had a wage increase since 2008, according to the Associated Press. As many as 185,000 direct-care workers are employed by human services agencies in Massachusetts.

“I really love getting up in the morning and going to work and trying to make a difference, but it’s getting harder,” Claras Nowden, a residential director at the Center for Human Development, told WWLP, a local television station. “With the cost of living, you know, you’re taking on second jobs and it’s really getting harder to stay in human services.”

Workers Deserve Dignity and Acknowledgement

Human services workers “care for people’s extremely personal needs,” said State Senate President Therese Murray, who spoke at the rally. “They keep people alive, they keep people going to work, and the [caregivers] actually pay taxes so you know they really deserve some dignity and some acknowledgement of the work they do.”

Murray said that she is committed to improving wages for direct-care workers but only if the state has enough revenue in the budget to do so.

“If there’s more, I will promise you more,” she said.

The Massachusetts human services budget has been slashed by 25 percent over the past four years.

“The situation in Massachusetts is emblematic of the difficulty we face in many states in trying to improve the quality of direct-care jobs,” said Steve Edelstein, PHI national policy director. “Everyone agrees that these jobs are essential, but efforts to improve wages are stymied by budget choices.”

The direct-care workers provide care to people with developmental disabilities, people with physical disabilities, people with mental illness, children, elders, and other vulnerable populations.

The rally was organized by The Caring Force, an advocacy group affiliated with the Massachusetts Council of Human Service Providers, Inc.

— by Deane Beebe

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