Homecare workers in Oregon are starting to fight the state for better benefits and pay that will allow them to live.
“The pandemic really raised us up and let it be known publicly that we are an essential workforce,” said Jolene White, a homecare worker and the director for SEIU District 6. “Just collectively respect would be back to those things that I mentioned about the processes that are in place for our industry that are really lacking on the state side.”
The Oregon branch of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU 503) meets with the state board for collective bargaining every two years to examine strategies to keep service members content and committed to their jobs.
A home care worker and rally organizer, Julia Bockelman, explained that the “silver tsunami” metaphor is commonly used to describe the baby boomer generation entering the caregiving workforce.
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People prefer to stay at home, and the pandemic shown that institutions are not the safest location for long-term care.
The main four points for the collective bargaining discussion are listed below:
- All employees are to earn 25 dollars an hour
- Better benefits along with more paid time off, holiday pay, and healthcare plans
- No cap on hours worked by employees
- Respect across the board for employees and union representatives
“Everything is going up except for their wages and benefits so in a way I’m fighting for them and myself as well because I want to get better care,” said Marvin Aguilar, a patient who receives in-home care. “With them getting better benefits and wages, I’ll get the care I deserve.”
Rallies will be held throughout the year to garner additional support for the collective bargaining agreement, which will assist homecare employees, union members at the Oregon Department of Transportation, and workers at the Department of Human Services.
“An aging parent that a provider cares for or a disabled child, we really touch a lot of people’s lives and we are a really important workforce,” White said. “We love what we do, and we do it with compassion but we also need to care for ourselves.”
Since they are among the most directly affected by the agreement, consumers (also known as patients) will be present at many of the rallies to lend support and expertise.
“There are times in the middle of the night that I need help and if I wouldn’t have a caregiver there then I would be in trouble,” Aguilar said.
A petition in favor of the organization may be seen there.
The union members will hold a rally at the Oregon state house in Salem on May 17.