The Fair Wages and Training for Home Care Workers Act April 2014
The Personal Assistance Services Council (PASC) has serious concerns about the “Fair Wages and Training for Home Care Workers Act,” which is an initiative measure being promoted by SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West (SEIU-UHW), to cover the 140,000 homecare workers employed within the In-Home Supportive Services (IHSS) program within Los Angeles County, along with thousands of similarly-situated workers throughout California. That “Fair Wages” Initiative will also directly impact the vulnerable low-income elderly and disabled population of the State (and now totaling almost 190,000 in Los Angeles County alone), who participate in the IHSS Program in order to remain in their own residences rather than being sent to nursing homes.
The homecare workers’ wages are currently determined through collective bargaining and State and County budget priorities, just as are all other State and County employees. This initiative would instead require automatic salary raises for this particular group of employees State-wide, pursuant to a formula, without any consideration of the State and County’s ability to pay the resulting bills, or of the service needs of the vulnerable population served by the IHSS program.
We generally favor salary increases for homecare workers. Last year we negotiated and agreed to increase their wages by a well-deserved and long-deferred increase of $1.65 per hour, based upon then-current availability of funds from the State and County, and well above the statutory minimum wage. However, the proposed formula would require an automatic increase in these workers’ wages up to $11.65 by January of 2016, but with no identified source of State funding. We therefore fear that the most likely source of funding will come from service reductions within the IHSS program.
We and the County have always maintained that it would be wrong to pay for salary increases by reducing services to the vulnerable population being served by the program. We are gravely concerned that making salary increases the absolute highest priority, as this Initiative would do, with no consideration of other priorities or of availability of funds, would place an unreasonable and devastating burden on the program and its vulnerable population.
Even with the recently-improved State budget picture, this year the State imposed a 7% reduction in services to the IHSS program. The proposed Initiative would impose an immediate additional $600 million hit to California’s newly-balanced budget – and uncapped future obligations under the Initiative’s formula – which we fear will only lead to further devastating cuts to the program as necessary to fund the automatic salary increases. We believe that this would be harmful not only to the IHSS recipients, but also to the homecare workers who would end up losing jobs or hours of work.
Looking even at the initial $600 million price of this Initiative, for example, we believe that such funds would be far better spent to restore the recent 7% cut to IHSS program services – rather than resulting in a likely additional reduction in services (and in worker hours) as required to fund the automatic wage increases required by the proposed Initiative.
We are troubled by the fact that SEIU-UHW drafted the initiative without input or support from the 450,000 seniors and other low-income people living with disabilities throughout California who will be directly and adversely affected by it – and we believe that the poor quality of the resulting Initiative reflects that failure to consider properly the potentially devastating negative impacts of the Initiative upon both the IHSS beneficiaries and the homecare workers. A second major concern is that this proposed Initiative mandates 75 hours of worker training using a curriculum designed by the State and SEIU. The cornerstone and foundation of the IHSS program is the right of the individual consumer/beneficiary of IHSS services to supervise and control all services performed in their homes. We regard the IHSS Consumers as the experts on their own lives and needs, and we believe that they are best able to select, train and supervise their homecare workers to meet their particular needs.
The initiative and its $600 million price tag are being proposed at the same time advocates are fighting to restore the 7% IHSS hours cut, and the governor is struggling with costly new federal regulations requiring overtime pay for IHSS workers. If this Initiative is passed, the mandatory training program and automatic wage increases would be added to the legally mandated priorities for funding — leaving IHSS consumers with their current and further reductions in service hours, with a corresponding pressure to force them out of their private residences and into nursing homes.
Greg Thompson is Executive Director of the Personal Assistance Services Council of Los Angeles County. PASC is LA County’s public authority for IHSS, the employer of record for the 140,000 IHSS workers in LA County, and its Homecare Registry helps IHSS consumers find a provider.
Text of the initiative: