IHSS providers in Riverside and San Diego move to state-level bargaining

June 12, 2015

This week, in a historic first meeting, homecare providers in Riverside County met with representatives from the state to prepare for contract negotiations at the state-level.

The Riverside County bargaining team

Up until now, homecare workers have had to bargain for better wages and benefits at the county level, a frustrating process that has caused wages to stagnate in many counties throughout the state where lawmakers have refused to invest in IHSS.

This changed for several counties with the passage of the SB 1036 in July 2012. A provision in the law allowed for the eight pilot counties to move from county to state-level bargaining.

“For homecare workers who live in counties where the Board of Supervisors has refused to invest in homecare and put people first, the pay is as low as $9.00/hr. That’s minimum wage, and it’s not okay,” said UDW Executive Director Doug Moore in a letter to providers earlier this year. “State-level collective bargaining provides us with a better opportunity to win the wages and benefits we deserve.”

Both Riverside and San Diego counties are moving to state-level bargaining this summer, with Orange County following suit soon after. Earlier this year UDW members in San Diego and Riverside were sent a survey about what they’d like to see the bargaining team fight for. The overwhelming majority said better wages.

As it stands, wages vary dramatically from one county to the next. “It isn’t fair that one county gets paid more than any other when we all provide the same quality care,” said Riverside provider Kady Crick at the bargaining meeting on Tuesday.

Riverside homecare workers are among the highest paid IHSS workers. And while working with Riverside County to increase IHSS wages to $11.50 plus $.60 for benefits has been a positive experience, most counties refuse to prioritize the IHSS program, which means putting seniors and people with disabilities at risk. Homecare workers in Orange County, for instance, make just $9.30 an hour.

“All counties deserve to get paid just as much as we do—and even then that’s not enough,” said Riverside bargaining team member and homecare worker Cassandra Sambrano. “The fact that some of our counties with the highest cost of living are making close to minimum wage is unbearable.”

Bargaining team member and UDW homecare provider Cassandra Sambrano

Bargaining team member and UDW homecare provider Cassandra Sambrano

At this week’s first meeting in Riverside, homecare workers and members of the bargaining team shared their excitement and hopes for the future.

Marcus Haynes said he hopes that “simplifying the process and uniting our voices gives us a better chance to win fair wages and better benefits” and Lisa Rivera emphasized that there is power in numbers: “Bargaining with the state with caregivers from all over means we have more power to fight for the things we need,” she said.

UDW homecare worker and bargaining team member Lisa Rivera

UDW homecare worker and bargaining team member Lisa Rivera

UDW is currently sponsoring legislation that would move all counties to state-level bargaining effective January 1, 2016. The bill, AB 211 (Gomez), has passed out of the Assembly with an overwhelming support and is scheduled to be heard in the Senate next.

“We’re restricted a lot with county bargaining,” said Camilla Bradford at the meeting on Tuesday. “I think this is going to open a lot of doors for IHSS workers.”

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