When Victoria Lara was younger, she was a fast food worker. Now, she’s a homecare provider in San Diego who works for three clients, making slightly more than she made at Jack in the Box. The Fight for $15, which began two and half years ago with a group of fast food employees, “really hits home for me. As a fast food worker you are overworked and underpaid,” Victoria explained. “Homecare workers face similar challenges.”
Like fast food employees and other low-wage workers, caregivers oftentimes live paycheck-to-paycheck just to get by, and for too many of us the money we make is not enough to pay bills and put food on the table. Despite doing the work that enables older Americans and people with disabilities to live with dignity and independence in their homes, we can barely afford to take care of our own families. What’s more is that we are among the lowest-paid workers in the country, getting paid on average just $17,000 per year, despite working in one of the country’s fastest-growing occupations.
And that is why UDW caregivers throughout California mobilized last week to march alongside thousands of fast-food employees, students, adjunct professors, childcare providers, security officers and custodians in support of the Fight for $15 campaign—which aims to raise wages for low-wage workers.
Linda Zavala is a CUHW homecare worker who will be joining UDW’s ranks soon and who cares for her daughter with Down syndrome. At the rally in San Diego, she told reporters that “homecare workers all across America are coming together with all underpaid workers to demand change – to fight for $15 and the right to a union.”
The April 15th strikes, marches and rallies included walkouts by fast-food workers in 200 U.S. cities, spanned industries from home care to academia, stretched from Tokyo to Sao Paolo and reached campuses like San Diego State University—demonstrating the two-and-a-half-year-old Fight For $15 is stronger than ever.
“We are proud to march alongside our fellow low-wage workers to demand a living wage for all,” stated Doug Moore, executive director of UDW, who rallied with workers, students and Fight for $15 activists at San Diego State University. “Putting more money in the pockets of workers means putting more money back into our neighborhoods, strengthening our local economies, and creating jobs.”
UDW caregivers such as LaTanya Cline turned out in full force at Fight for $15 events from San Diego to Sacramento. “Homecare workers like me are paid less than $10 an hour, with few benefits, and no paid sick leave or overtime pay,” said Cline, while speaking at a Fight for $15 rally at San Diego State University. Cline, whose husband lives with the mobility-limiting Guillain-Barré Syndrome, stated that she supports the movement to raise salaries for low-income workers “because all people deserve to make a living wage.”
UDW homecare workers from Riverside and Coachella marched in Los Angeles, while others from El Dorado, Placer, Stanislaus, and Merced joined events in Sacramento.
“We stand with you,” UDW Executive Director Doug Moore told the crowd of nearly 2,000 people at SDSU. “But sisters and brothers we need to do more than just stand. We need to act. We need to start making revolutionary changes that will take away this plutocracy and recharge our democracy. It starts today.”