Caring for California, part 2: Building a better IHSS program

May is Labor History Month, and this year we are celebrating the contributions of organized caregivers to build and protect a quality homecare program in California. This is the second post in a four-part series. Read the full Caring for California series Part 1  Part 2  |  Part 3  |  Part 4

Part 2: Building a better IHSS program

With the creation of IHSS and UDW in the 1970s, it became apparent that there was much work to do to continue to  improve the quality of life for Californians with disabilities and seniors throughout the 80s and 90s.

Willie Brown at UDW lobby day, 1985

Former Speaker of the California State Assembly Willie Brown at UDW’s lobby day in 1985.

And we had a lot of work to do. Providers were making minimum wage and did not have health benefits. Because of high turnover rates due to these poor working conditions, it was hard for seniors and people with disabilities to find caregivers. Using our collective voice, we received our first-ever cost-of-living wage increase in 1983. And that was just the beginning of the positive changes that we brought to the IHSS program.

Throughout the mid-1980s we passed legislation to improve standards and reform IHSS homecare agency contract programs affecting the bidding process, employee compensation requirements, reducing contract turnover and improving service continuity to IHSS consumers. Importantly, 1987 saw a dramatic stabilization of wages and client services when Senate Bill 412 (Greene) was passed. This bill capped the counties’ escalating share of cost for the program. This cap saved thousands of caregiver jobs and ensured that IHSS would remain a viable option for seniors and people with disabilities in California.

Moving into the 1990s we grew as a union by affiliating with AFSCME. This move gave us a national platform to make our voices heard. Joining with AFSCME gave us the strength of millions of our brothers and sisters behind us, supporting our work and our clients.

As the 1990s came to an end the right to a collective voice still eluded independent providers. In 1999, a coalition of disability rights advocates, senior rights advocates, clients, and caregivers secured the passage of AB 1682, a law giving all independent homecare providers the opportunity to negotiate for better wages, benefits, and working conditions through collective bargaining. The new law also created an IHSS Advisory Committee to protect clients against losing hours, and enhanced clients’ rights to hire, fire, train, and supervise their providers.

The 1980s and 90s showed us how important it is to stand together. Our unified voices, especially through our continued partnership with IHSS stakeholders, strengthened the infrastructure of the IHSS program, which improved provider working conditions and expanded access to quality care in the home.

  • 1983: Homecare providers receive first-ever cost-of-living wage increase
  • 1987: Passage of SB 412 caps the counties’ escalating IHSS share of cost
  • 1994: UDW affiliates with AFSCME
  • 1999: Passage of AB 1682 requires every county to establish an IHSS employer of record and guarantees the right to collective bargaining

Continue reading Part 3: Dignity and independence under attack



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